by Rory Ramsden
RS:X World Windsurfing Championship entries are now closed and fleets are full. 120 men and 80 women have been accepted to race. There are more sailors from more countries here than raced in the RS:X fleets at the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships last December in Perth.
RS:X sailing action
Here in Cadiz, there are competitors from 47 countries and 5continents registered to race in the RS:X men's fleet with 19 of them chasing nine national qualification places for the London Olympic Regatta. Over in the RS:X women's fleet, there are racers from 36 countries, 16 chasing only seven remaining places. More than 50 countries have taken part in the Olympic Qualification process defined by ISAF. 49 of them will assemble for the Opening Ceremony in Puerto Sherry, Cadiz on March 20th.
Those numbers are pretty impressive especially when you consider that there's plenty of room to expand the number of countries racing the RS:X One Design Windsurfing equipment. All we need is a plan...More on that later.
But, for now, let's look at who will be racing.
In the women's fleet, Lee Korzits [ISR] who won the 2011Worlds in spectacular style in Fremantle, Australia just two short months ago is going to have her work cut out if she wants to retain her title. Zofia Klepacka [POL] and Marina Alabau [ESP] who took the minor places in WA are back and determined to go better.
Alessandra Sensini [ITA] who made a quick exit from the board park after failing to qualify for the medal race last time will certainly be more determined than ever to prove that she is not to be discounted when it comes to the battle for top honors. With her and eager to press her claims will be Bryony Shaw [GBR] who made a blistering start in Oz only to fade towards the end.
Bryony has got to convert her potential into gold if she wants to be considered as someone for a London medal. She must get fired up early on and press her case right through to the end of the medal race. She has it in her but desperately needs to stamp her authority on the fleet this time so she can go into the Olympic regatta with the psychological advantage on her side.
Someone else with it all to do is Charline Picon [FRA]. She is always knocking on the door but has not burst through it to be considered a serious medal contender. It's now or never if she wants to muscle her way through to the front and show what she is really made of when the pressure is on.
Back in 2006, Tuuli Petaja [FIN] started her windsurfing odyssey. She grabbed the bronze medal at the recent RS:X European Windsurfing Championships in Madeira so she will be keen to push on and make sure she is a top 10 finisher in Cadiz.
Marina Alabau (ESP) finished 3rd in the 2012 RS;X World in Perth
There are three other women athletes who you may be missing in this list.
One is Moana Delle [GER] who is top 10 material. The second is Olga Maslivets [UKR] who is coming good in time for a medal push. And the third is Blanca Manchon [ESP] who has been having problems with a shoulder since she returned from Madeira. She was a last minute entry having just been given clearance to race by her medical team. Blanca is fully capable of smoking passed the whole fleet having won the 2010 RS:X Worlds in Kerteminde, Denmark. Whether she can pull all it together to win on her home waters is by no means certain.
Over in the RS:X men's fleet, competition will be just as intense...
Dorian van Rijsselberge [NED] has just returned from winter training in New Zealand. The World Champion seemed to be able to make mistakes with impunity in Perth and bounce back without apparently feeling the pressure. It was a supreme performance. Piotr Myszka [POL] could not find the answer to his dominance. Nor could Nimrod Mashiah [ISR] who had made a brilliant start to his 2011 World Championship campaign.
Meanwhile JP Tobin has been picked for the New Zealand team over his arch rival Tom Ashley, the 2008 Olympic Gold medalist. JP has had an operation on his foot to solve the problems left by standing on a nasty little spiny fish hidden in the weed on the shoreline in Freo.
He reckons he's about 90% right at the moment but better watch out because Tom is looking for blood in his own quiet way. No doubt smarting over being overlooked for London he has a case to prove and won't quit until he does.
Perth was the place that two new kids burst through into contention posting regular top 10 finishes. One is Zac Plavsic [CAN] who finished 12th. He is Dorian's training partner so don't be surprised if he pushes on this time to claim a top 10 finish and a share of the prize money too.
The second is Elliot Carnery [GBR] who finished one place behind Olympic bronze medallist. Nick Dempsey [GBR] They were like two sides to the same coin. Elliot was in sparkling form and determined to take as many scalps off the established front runners as possible before the Games. Nick just did not have his head in the game at all. It was plain to see.
His wife Sarah has just given birth to Oscar - mother and baby are doing well - so his head has been elsewhere recently and understandably so. The question is ... Can he re-focus and get into the game in Cadiz? He's a cool character who doesn't let much ruffle his feathers so my guess is he'll be in there battling it out when the medal race takes place on March 28th.
The Competition for places will go all the way to the last national Olympic qualification place.
You may be distracted by the battle for a share of the US$45,000 prize money at the front of the fleets but make no mistake, the fight will be just as hard fought for the last national Olympic qualification place. 19 countries are chasing nine places in the men's fleet and 16 are chasing seven in the women's.
To represent your country at the Olympic Games is a very special honor. For many it is an obsession. For all, it is an unreasonable ambition to hold. Few achieve it. Even fewer go on to win a medal. The2012 RS:X World Windsurfing Championships will be one step closer for some. For others, it may appear to be the end of the road.
My message to them is this. Never give up. Most reasonable people would. But that is the difference between you, the Olympian, and them. You may have set yourself a goal that few reach but if you search your soul, you will find the strength to go the distance...