Every once in a while you hear about an athletic performance that puts your jaw on the ground. Not a good performance, not even a great performance, but a brilliant showing. Here in Weymouth, UK, we might just be on the cusp of watching a true tour-de-force unfurling in the Women’s Match Racing (WMR) event, although it’s vital to remember that these are still early days, with many pages in the manuscript still left to be written.
Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty (AUS) competing today, 01.08.12, in the Women’s Match Racing (Elliott 6M) event in The London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition.
Outside of Australia, relatively few people had heard of Olivia Price, Nina Curtis or Lucinda Whitty. Suffice it to say that after this Olympiad, however, these young ladies could well become household names (in Sydney a least!). Yesterday it was reported that the ladies had managed to build a perfect 'picket fence' of first-place finishes in the WMR event. Today, we’re happy to report that the young Aussie team added two more bullets to their impeccable record, placing them far and away in the pole position in this hyper-competitive class.
'We are really enjoying sailing on the Nothe course,' reported Price after yesterday’s racing. 'Tomorrow is my birthday and we’re going to have a nice family breakfast'.
Price’s birthday celebrations apparently went well as the team went on to beat the Spanish-flagged team of Tamara Echegoyen Dominguez, Sofia Toro Prieto Puga and Angela Pumariega Menendez in a tightly fought battle, before turning their attention to the Danish team of Lotte Meldgaard, Tina Gramkov and Susanne Boidin.
Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty (AUS) competing in the London Olympics 2012.
While there’s still plenty of great racing to go in the WMR event, there’s simply no denying the fact that these ladies are fast, focused and in-control. At least thus far. Still, any spectator (or journalist!) would be completely misguided to consider this a slam-dunk Gold for the Aussies (yet), especially with competitors such as the always-fast American team of Anna Tunnicliffe, Debbie Capozzi and Molly Vandemoer, the talented Russian squad of Ekaterina Skudina, Elena Siuzeva and Elana Oblova, or the skilled Spanish team of Tamara Echegoyen Dominguez, Sofia Toro Prieto Puga and Angela Pumariega Menendez standing between the 'Speedy Sheilas' and the top step of the WMR podium.
'They were close races and we had a lot of fun out there but [we] stuck to our systems,' reported Whitty of today’s two additional bullets. 'The race against the Spanish was a really good race, close few beats and things got exciting down the run.'
Price seemed upbeat and optimistic, but was careful not to allow distractions of birthday candles (a mere 20 of them) influence how she approached her day or her match races. 'We had another good day,' said an elated Price after the day’s racing concluded. 'To be honest, I hadn’t thought that it was my birthday, I’d been trying to block it out but now that it’s finished it was a good day.'
The WMR event has a lay day tomorrow, before the action continues on Saturday. As for the Speedy Sheilas, their pre-Olympic time in Weymouth has properly acquitted the teams with the area’s delights, so some time off will no doubt be appreciated, especially after five days of full-on match racing. 'We’ve got a day off, then one race on the next day then two days off so we’ve got a pretty good plan of what we’re going to do,' said Curtis. 'We’re used to spending time here in Weymouth so we’ll just enjoy ourselves and take a bit of downtime.'
On Saturday, the Australians will face the Portuguese team of Rita Goncalves, Mariana Lobato and Diane Neves, before progressing to the quarterfinals. It will be fascinating to see if the Speedy Sheilas can continue to steamroll their way through this tough class of sailors, and if their picket fence will turn into a monorail track (read: 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1, and well, you get the drift) that leads all the way to Gold. And while comparing Price and company’s performance to that of all-time Olympic greats is admittedly premature, the comparison will certainly become a bit more realistic if the Sheilas can manage to maintain their perfect record, all the way to the top step of the podium.
The WMR event’s medal race will take place on August 11th, so please stay tuned for more, as it becomes known.