by Craig Heydon
Australia’s Skud 18 crew of Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch have their sights set on the medals as they head into the London 2012 Paralympic Games sailing competition. Fitzgibbon and Tesch have only been sailing together since January 2011 but have been at the front of the fleet since their first regatta together.
Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch SKUD18
The pair won gold at their first major international regatta, the ISAF Sailing World Cup round in Miami in January 2010, and have been on the podium ever since. With the sailing competition at the London 2012 Paralympic Games beginning on Saturday Fitzgibbon and Tesch have spent the last week getting reacquainted with the conditions on Portland Harbour.
'Our preparations are going really well,' said Fitzgibbon. 'We’re the best prepared we've ever been, our equipment is perfect and the crew is in great shape. 'We’re feeling very relaxed and quietly confident at this stage,' he said. 'Our preparation has been great and we go into competition knowing that we couldn't have done anything more.'
London 2012 will be Tesch’s sixth straight Paralympic Games appearance, but her first in sailing, having won three Paralympic medals in wheelchair basketball. 'Our preparations could not have been better at home, although it is great to be racing in a fleet again,' said Tesch. 'Whilst our training partners at home have been fantastic competition, it feels awesome to be out in a pack of other boats, increasing our vision and sense of the whole fleet before the Games.
'It feels really comfortable to be back in Weymouth and the Paralympic village is a great bonus,' she said. 'We know the course and the winds and our boat feels fast. It's like getting back on the favourite old horse in familiar pasture, and we know that we race very well here.'
London 2012 presents a number of new experiences for Tesch, not only is she competing in a new sport but for the first time she’s outside of the main Paralympic village. 'The big village in London is filled with old friends and a sport that has an exciting history for me,' said Tesch. 'It’s quite mellow down here at the sailing village and very easy to focus on the job at hand, doing the same thing I have been doing at every other sailing regatta in which I have competed, only this time we have more experience and training behind us.'
The Weymouth and Portland venue has been a happy hunting ground for Fitzgibbon and Tesch and they’re keen to continue that success over the coming week. 'We’ve had great success at this venue before, winning two of three World Cup events held here and we are looking to continue that form here,' said Fitzgibbon. 'We know what to expect here and we just can't wait to start the Games.'
Fitzgibbon knows what it takes to win a Paralympic Games sailing medal, having won silver at Beijing 2008 and believes that experience will be important come the first race on Saturday. 'Winning Silver in Beijing gives us great confidence here,' said. 'We know we can do it and we know what it takes. I know we are sailing much better now than ever before.'
The sailing competition at the London 2012 Paralympic Games begins on Saturday 1 September with medals to be awarded on Thursday 6 September.
Australia’s sailors information here
News from the Australian Paralympic Committee here