Paralympics London 2012 - U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team preview

US Paralympic Sailing Team - Back row LtoR: Mark LeBlanc, JP Creignou, Brad Johnson, Tom Brown. Front row: Paul Callahan, Jen French
Six athletes will represent the United States in three Paralympic events at the Paralympic Games Sailing Regatta, set to take place August 29-September 9.

The 2012 U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team represents the best of American Paralympic sailing. The six members were selected based on performances at US Sailing’s 2012 Rolex Miami OCR, held Jan. 23-28, 2012, in Miami, Fla., and the International Federation Disabled Sailing (IFDS) Worlds held two weeks earlier in Port Charlotte, Fla.

As the top-scoring eligible American athletes in their respective Paralympic sailing classes, Jen French and JP Creignou, Mark LeBlanc, and Paul Callahan, Tom Brown and Bradley Johnson successfully completed qualification.

'These six athletes have shown they have the desire required to win Paralympic medals,' said Olympic Sailing Committee Chairman Dean Brenner (Wallingford, Conn.). 'Four of the members have already been to the Games, and they bring a great deal of experience and wisdom to the overall Team.'

Jen French and JP Creignou (both St. Petersburg, Fla.) secured the bronze in the SKUD-18 at Rolex Miami OCR and with it the Team Trials. Creignou is a 2004 Paralympic bronze medalist (Sonar).

'When I crossed the finish line, my coach told me I had won,' said French dockside after racing. 'It’s very exciting. We had a tough week. Most of the boats have been close together, and all of the boats competing give us an idea of what the Paralympics will be like. There were a lot of medalists from Paralympics and others who have been to the Games. You have to sail your best against them.'

French and Creignou are both members of St. Petersburg Yacht Club.

Mark LeBlanc (New Orleans, La.) realized his dream of qualifying for the Games after a disappointing finish at the 2008 Paralympic Trials in the 2.4mR. He tied on points with, and finished second to, John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis.), who went on to win the 2008 Paralympic bronze medal.

'It’s been a great day,' said LeBlanc moments after reaching the dock at the end of Rolex Miami OCR. 'I sealed the deal and won the Trials.'

LeBlanc, who finished eighth at Rolex Miami OCR, is a member of Southern Yacht Club.

Paul Callahan (Cape Coral, Fla./Newport R.I.), Tom Brown (Castine, Me.) and Bradley Johnson (Pompano Beach, Fla.) are all Paralympians, with a combined four Paralympic medals. They finished Rolex Miami OCR in sixth. 'We’ve been working hard for three years,' said Callahan. 'We’re looking forward to winning a gold medal for USA.'

The three sailing events selected for the 2012 Paralympic Games are: Paralympic One Person Keelboat (2.4mR); Paralympic Two Person Keelboat (SKUD18); and Paralympic Three Person Keelboat (Sonar).

US Sailing will send a maximum of one boat per event to the 2012 Paralympic Games for a maximum team size of six. The Paralympic Regatta will be held August 29-September 9, 2012, in the towns of Weymouth and Portland, which are located on the southern coast of England, approximately 120 miles southwest of London.

Sailing appeared as a demonstration sport at the 1996 Atlanta Games and in 2000 was included in the Paralympic Games Competition program as a medal sport with events for the Sonar (three person keelboat) and the 2.4mR (single-person keelboat). Tom Brown won a bronze medal in the 2.4mR event.

The same events were on show at Athens 2004 and JP Creignou and Brad Johnson won a bronze medal in the Sonar, while Tom Brown won his second Paralympic medal, a silver, in the 2.4mR.

The SKUD18 was introduced for the Beijing 2008 Paralympics Games as the equipment for the two-person dinghy outlining the evolution of sailing at the Games. Nick Scandone and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker won the USA’s first gold medal at the 2008 Paralympic Sailing Regatta in Qingdao, China. John Ruf exceeded expectations by winning an impressive bronze medal in a tight 2.4 mR fleet.

US Sailing website
http://www.sail-world.com/101564