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Olympic Sailing – Can Australia repeat London 2012 sailing success?

by Rob Kothe, Sail-World.com on 7 Apr 2014
2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca - BURTON (AUS, Laser Standard) © Pedro Martinez/MartinezStudio/Sofia http://www.trofeoprincesasofia.org/
Australia won three Gold medals and a Silver at London 2012, making it the most successful sailing nation at that Olympics.

There are some good signs as the clock ticks down to 2016, not the least was Tom Burtons win in the Laser Class in Palma with a 1,2,3 Laser medal race win by Australia.

At the ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca, Sail-World talked to Peter Conde - Australia’s High Performance Director about the Road to Rio 2016

‘After not winning a single sailing medal in Athens 2004 Yachting Australia under Andrew Plympton’s leadership decided to take a really fresh look the strategy for the performance arm of the sport, and that’s when I first got involved back in 2005, and with a lot of input from Victor Kovalenko and others we developed the plan including the development of the Australian Sailing Team concept and essentially the way it is run now.

‘At London 2012, we all expected the number of Olympic Gold medals pretty much and we certainly didn’t expect such a big percentage of the overall Australian medal tally.

‘It was pretty obvious sailing could do well if you were really looking. We won four Gold medals at the World Cup on the Olympic venue in just a few months prior. But it caught the mainstream media by surprise. So there was little mainstream media pressure because up into probably the end of the first week of the Olympic Games they hadn’t figured it out.

‘So looking ahead to Rio the Australian mainstream media will focus more on the Australian team.

‘And that’s good for our sport and we just have to be able manage that.

‘Going forward we have to manage expectations, manage our own processes and exposure to that sort of pressure and our ability to handle that sort of pressure.

‘We had probably our largest ever ISAF World Sailing Cup squad in Mallorca this week. The Palma regatta itself has got a lot bigger. Over the years the normal focus has been around Hyeres and onwards but certainly people have made the effort to get here earlier for Palma this time.

‘We have got a broad enough squad but post Santander we will have to trim down, as we don’t have the funds ongoing to be able to support such a broad fleet.

‘But having a big squad here gives the developing sailors opportunities. While sailing in Australia and the USA can be a good start for sailors, their European campaign is a whole new ball game, much deeper fleet and so on.

‘We will have our ups and downs on the Road to Rio of course but we have probably got 50% plus more events where we have got realistic medal prospects and where we have that we have got to have some depth in the squad to be able to realise the potential.

‘That’s really were the challenge comes from and it’s our role to help the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and the Sports Commission understand that there are a lot of potential medals sitting here and we need to have the support that allows us to in turn support those extra numbers of medal prospects.

‘We haven’t actually have had backup after a big success (London 2012) to quite the extent to what we have to this time round. That’s a new set of challenges for the team and we totally recognise that and we are going into an environment which is probably lighter conditions and that presents its own challenge.

‘Lots of challenges but we do pride ourselves in recognising what they are and taking them on and managing them very effectively.’

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