London Olympics 2012 - A tale of two Medal races
by Mark Chisnell on 7 Aug 2012
When the medal race was introduced at the Olympic Sailing Competition, the hope was that it would bring heart-stopping action for spectators. Yesterday it delivered plenty, with the Star and Finn. And today, we saw a couple more classic medal race stories play out in the two Laser classes.
Tom Slingsby (AUS) competing in the Men’s One Person Dinghy (Laser) event in The London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition. onEdition © http://www.onEdition.com
There was the all-but unassailable lead that dissolves into a match race at the back of the fleet. And then there was the incredibly tight points battle, remaining a proper fleet race right to the end.
The first was the Laser race which was largely a coronation parade for Tom Slingsby of Australia. He went into the race guaranteed gold or silver, and only had to sail Pavlos Kontides to the back of the fleet to make sure of it. Fortunately for the Cypriot he was also guaranteed gold or silver and so Slingsby's aggressive attack didn't leave him empty-handed - as it has for others in past years.
Slingsby's execution was clinical; he got the advantage on the first beat with a tiny edge in speed, and then kept his foot on Kontides's throat all the way round. By the end of lap two, Pavlos appeared to concede that he was never going to get past, never mind getting the bulk of the fleet between him and Slingsby required for gold.
Attention turned to the race for bronze, where Sweden's Rasmus Myrgren was just a point from Croatia's Tonci Stipanovic - and with fifth place a long way back, cue a second match race.
This one was much tighter, with Stipanovic holding the early advantage, but Myrgren going past him and eventually winning pretty comfortably. He had to survive a few tense minutes in the protest room, due to an equipment repair issue, but the bronze medal was his soon after.
The Radial Medal Race was an utterly compelling affair, with four girls going into it separated by a point, and in a position to win gold, or nothing. Someone was going to come away hurt - but who? Lijia Xu executed almost the perfect race to get the gold - despite a propulsion penalty at the end of the first run.
The Netherland's Marit Bouwmeester made sure of silver with some astonishing downwind pace on the first couple of runs. And that left bronze for either Evi Van Acker or Ireland's Annalise Murphy.
The final medal went down to the last leg. Murphy had her hand on it at the top mark, but she had tightened downwind before - losing crucial places on the run to the finish in the penultimate race.
And so it was again, Van Acker went past her on the last run and grabbed the bronze for Belgium - there were tears on 'Murphy's Mound', the spectator site at the Nothe. Perhaps your view on a medal race depends a great deal on whether you've got a dog in the fight. There was no British medal interest in these races and as a result they were a lot more entertaining, and a lot less traumatising!
But the terrors, tragedies and triumphs of the medal race can still be avoided completely, and I have to mention Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen who sealed Australia's second gold today in the penultimate 49er race. Dorian Van Rijsselberge had already achieved that in the RS:X Men, but behind him it will be a big tussle for silver and bronze tomorrow. In contrast, Kiwis Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have also sewn up the 49er silver. Fortunately, behind them it's an ugly six-way battle for bronze - and I suspect that one will be just as compelling as all the other medal races.