Going into the final, deciding race of the 2.4mR class at the Paralympic Games, Damien Seguin (FRA) and Thomas Brown (USA) were tied in net points with 17 each.
The pair held a slim three-point margin over third-placed Thierry Sschmitter (NED). The scene was set for a breathtaking showdown.
In there with a slight chance for the Bronze were Sydney 2000 Gold medallist, Heiko Kroeger (GER) and Peter Thompson (AUS).
The race got underway with a 6-knot southwesterly and both overnight leaders headed off towards the left side of the course, with Brown trailing the 25-year old Frenchman. Meanwhile, Schmitter was stuck in the back of the fleet in fifteenth, which actually meant that his hopes for capturing the silver or gold medal had crumbled.
Showing no mercy, Seguin upped the ante and accelerated ahead of Brown to round the top mark a few metres adrift of Allan Smith (GBR).
Some blistering work on the first leg led Schmitter to gain an amazing ten places and pop round the mark in fifth, one place ahead of Brown.
By the time the boats approached the second upwind mark, Heiko Kroeger had established an impressive lead that he never relinquished. However, since he was already out of contention for a medal, winning the ultimate race was just a matter of proving he is still the sailor to beat.
While the top three battled it out with the Gold at stake and Seguin only needing to sail a conservative race and hold onto fourth, which he did, the rest fought it out for the top three place in the final race. Brown got the Silver and Schmitter won Bronze.
After the race, Seguin commented on his Gold medal win at his first Paralympic Regatta - 'I am really happy. I worked hard for three years, but it paid off, and now I'm enjoying it. Now, I'm so excited that I cannot express how I feel.'
'The race was difficult today due to the light winds but I was concentrated so I made it 'My next goal is to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in the Tornado class, which is a boat I used to sail before I switched to the 2.4mR.'
It was Kroeger who won the final race though – he was not going to relinquish that, giving him fourth overall for the regatta. Smith took second place with Australian Peter Thompson in third. He finished out of medal contention, but was a credible fifth overall, despite two second placings and a third, such was the competition at this Games.
I spoke to Peter Thompson in Athens at 10.35am Athens time (just prior to his final race) about his campaign so far. He told me, ‘even though I finished eighth in Race 8 and had other results that didn’t look that great, the racing has been very close, there’s been very little in it – it just doesn’t translate when you look at some of my results.
‘The competition this time around is much tougher than it was in Sydney. There are three guys here who have finished first and second in recent world titles and international events and there’s another three who have previously competed in open Olympic sailing – so it is a lot more difficult.
For me, there is no difference between sailing here or in Sydney though. I know some people compete better in their home country, but it doesn’t matter to me whether it’s at home or somewhere else.
‘In the past, I have sailed much better in heavier breeze. Here it has been light to medium, but not as tricky and shifty as it was for the Olympic Games.
I have surprised myself here; I am sailing better as the breeze gets lighter – so that’s something positive to take home with me – being able to sail in all conditions at a high level.
‘To put this regatta in simple terms, Heiko Kroeger (outstanding winner of Gold in Sydney) is struggling in fourth – that says everything.
I am disappointed with some of my results – frustrated – it’s been a bit of a ‘what if’ regatta for me. Some races I came from behind and got great results, yet in others, when I was hammering at the leader, I have fallen down into some of my worst results.
‘It’s been up and down and I haven’t been consistent enough. If you look at the top three, they are consistently in the top four places – that’s what I needed to do. I also broke my rudder in Race 1 – that really hurt (his worst race result) and didn’t help!
‘Just tell everyone at home I am doing my best, giving my best; and that’s what matters to me. I am going out in the final race today and I am going to give it my best shot, it’s all I can do.’
Thompson has been a tough competitor in a number of classes, including the Australian designed Access Dinghy, where he regularly beats both able-bodied and disabled sailors. He represented Australia at the inaugural Paralympics in Sydney 2000, finishing one point outside of a Bronze medal.
Top five results:
1 SEGUIN Damien FRA 1 1 4 5 1 (6) 3 2 4 - 21
2 BROWN Thomas USA 4 2 1 1 5 5 1 3 (10) - 22
3 SCHMITTER Thierry NED 3 3 2 (6) 3 4 4 1 5 - 25
4 KROEGER Heiko GER 2 4 3 3 7 (17) 6 5 1 - 31
5 THOMPSON Peter AUS (10) 5 5 4 9 2 2 8 3 - 38