London Olympics 2012 - The Dominant, The Dream and The Desperate
by Mark Chisnell on 5 Aug 2012
At the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition, the Ben v Jonas show stepped aside for a day off ahead of the medal race, which leaves us casting around for other good stories. There are three ways to pick a strong narrative - totally dominant performances, dreams-come-true and desperately tight contests. Based on that principle, we have three strong contenders - you choose!
Tom Slingsby (AUS) who has a 14pt lead iun the Mens Singlehander (Laser) going into the Medal Race on Monday. © Richard Gladwell http://www.richardgladwell.com
First up, we have Dorian Van Rijsselberge in the RS:X Men, who is discarding a third from his eight races so far, and counting five firsts and two seconds. He is already 15 points ahead of Nick Dempsey in silver and could well seal the gold medal ahead of the final race. While gold for Dorian is not unexpected - he's a very consistent performer in Weymouth - this kind of dominance is still pretty special. Particularly when you also look at Nick Dempsey's record - a podium in every one of eight world class events in Weymouth.
Second to bat in the dominant category is Australia's Tom Slingsby, the cast-iron favourite for gold in the Laser who started the week brilliantly, with a first and a couple of seconds, but then had a wobble that dropped him to second place overall. After the low point of a 14th in yesterday's first race, Slingsby appears to have given himself a stiff talking to, and finally came out firing for the second. He won it, and followed that up today with two more victories to take three straight bullets in the final three races of the regular series.
The Laser is the biggest fleet here with 49 boats and when you watch them race you realise how special that kind of performance is - they round the marks in packs and for Slingsby to find the inches to get him out in front every time, right when he needs to, in identical boats... you get the idea. Slingsby has a 14 point lead going into the medal race and a guarantee of at least silver. He really turned it on today when he most had to - the mark of a champion, as they say.
Every Olympics throws up the dream story, the individual who for whatever reason of history, background or circumstance captures the imagination. Today that person was Pavlos Kontides who won the first ever medal for his country of Cyprus, and he did it in the Laser. Kontides finished the day 22 points ahead of fourth placed Tonci Stipanovic of Croatia, guaranteeing Cyprus at least a bronze. In all likelihood it will be a silver, as Kontides has a 21 point lead over Sweden's third placed Rasmus Myrgren. I'm sure Pavlos will go home a hero, judging by the support he had on the ISAF Live Blog today.
In the desperately tight corner is the extraordinary Women's Radial competition - going into the medal race we have gold and silver tied on 33 points (Lijia Xu and Marit Bouwmeester) and bronze tied on 34 points (Annalise Murphy and Evi Van Acker). Can you imagine the pressure those four girls will be under on Monday when they start the medal race? Any one of them could come away with gold, or nothing.
This story is all the more remarkable when you consider that it started out as a story of the dominance of Ireland's Annalise Murphy. Murphy won the opening four races, and then lost her way posting an eighth, nineteenth, a second and a tenth ahead of today's racing, to lie second overall. And today was tough to watch, even for the neutral - at the first mark in the final race she held third place and had her hands, and her hands alone, on gold. But she slipped back to seventh by the finish and will start the medal race in third. If Murphy leaves Weymouth empty-handed it will be one of the sob stories of the Games. Unless you're Lijia Xu, Marit Bouwmeester or Evi Van Acker. It's a tough world, Olympic sport.