by Craig Heydon
After the London 2012 Paralympic Games sailing competition was cut short in Weymouth, due to a lack of breeze, Australian sailors Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch have received their gold medals.
Daniel Fitzgibbon & Liesl Tesch with their gold medals - London 2012 Paralympic Games
Each fleet was scheduled to contest one race to finish competition on Thursday but when the breeze hadn’t arrived by the cut off time of 1.50pm the London 2012 Paralympic Games sailing competition was brought to an early end.
Fitzgibbon and Tesch were the team to beat in the Skud 18 class all week, wrapping up their gold medal with a day to spare.
The Australian pair had four race wins, five seconds and a third from the regatta’s 10 races, giving them victory over their American opponents by six points, with Great Britain finishing two points further behind in third.
For skipper Fitzgibbon his London gold was his second Paralympic Games medal, having won silver at Beijing 2008.
Tesch finally won that elusive gold medal after coming so close before in wheelchair basketball. London 2012 was Tesch’s sixth straight Paralympic Games, having previously won silver and bronze medals with Australia’s wheelchair basketball team.
The pair teamed up at the beginning of 2011 and were on the pace from their first event, winning the ISAF Sailing World Cup round in Miami and going on to finish on the podium in every regatta they contested.
There was extra cause for celebration for the Australian team on Thursday night after Daniel Fitzgibbon announced his engagement to Kumi Sasaki at the team dinner.
Australia’s Colin Harrison, Jonathan Harris and Stephen Churm finished sixth overall in the Sonar class.
Harrison, Harris and Churm finished just seven points behind second and five off third following a week of close racing on Portland Harbour.
The Australians, who were competing in only their third international regatta together after teaming up in January this year, were in the mix all regatta, having the early event lead following a good opening day.
Harrison and crew went on to claim four top three finishes from the 10 races, with the light winds on Thursday unfortunately stopping them from pushing on for a medal in the final race.
London 2012 was Harrison’s third Paralympic Games after competing Athens and the winning bronze in Beijing four years ago.
Tasmanian sailor Matt Bugg finished seventh overall in the 2.4mR class on his Paralympic Games debut.
Bugg, who has only been competing internationally in the 2.4mR class since the middle of 2010, was mixing with a fleet full of former Paralympic and World Champions all week, eventually finishing 19 points off the podium.
Bugg finished in the top 10 in nine of the 10 races, the only time he was outside the 10 was when he had to retire from Wednesday’s final race after suffering boat damage in a collision.
Bugg had a consistent week, with three top five finishes and was in the hunt for the medals for much of the regatta.
Australian Paralympic Committee website
Australian Sailing Team website