A gathering breeze and mounting excitement greeted the Women’s RS:X fleet, who had the historic honor of being the last class of windsurfers to compete in the Olympics, now that kiteboarding has been voted to replace the 'planks' (lighthearted speak referring to windsurfers) for the 2016 Games. As expected, Spain’s Marina Alabau Neira captured Gold, while Finland’s Tuuli Petaja earned Silver and Poland’s Zofia Noceti-Klepacka nabbed Bronze.
Interestingly, Neira didn’t claim the lead in the medal race until the final mark rounding, nipping line honors from Olha Maslivets (UKR) who had dominated the medal race up until that point. Both Petaja and Noceti-Klepacka sailed fast, consistent races to cement their podium positions during this afternoon’s medal ceremony.
Ultimately, Neira managed to cross the finishing line 27 seconds ahead of her Ukrainian rival, demonstrating once and for all why she deserved to receive the last Olympic Gold medal that the RS:X class is likely to ever be granted (pending a lawsuit against ISAF, but that’s a different matter all told) by the International Olympic Committee.
Isreal’s Lee-El Korsiz scorched into today’s medal race as a strong contender for either a Silver or Bronze medal, but—ultimately—this wasn’t to be as as an uncharacteristic ninth-place finish (out of ten) dropped her out of contention. As a result of this, Korsiz finished in sixth place, overall.
Today’s race, which was sailed on the spectator-friendly Nothe course, provided fans with an opportunity to cheer on their favorite windsurfers. Once the racing had concluded, the medalist finishers sailed a quick victory lap past Nothe hill, savoring their moment in the limelight and proudly representing their home countries.
Still, the matter of legacy must have weighed heavily on many minds (especially the non-medalists), given the classes’ ousting for the 2016 Games, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro. While some RS:X sailors will make the transition to kiteboarding, others feel that it’s too dangerous for the Olympic Games. Also, concerns have been raised about the associated costs of the new equipment; the lack of properly developed youth and feeder programs, and about kiteboarding’s nascent nature.
Nevertheless, there’s little doubt that the RS:X sailors are in the best position to medal in 2016, given their vast amount of experience competing on international and Olympic levels.
Please stay tuned for more news from this class, including quotes from the medal winners and plenty of racecourse images from today’s Woman’s RS:X medal race.
by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor
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11:37 AM Tue 7 Aug 2012GMT
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