Tom Slingsby may have retained his world crown as the Laser World Championship came to a close at Terrigal today, but there was more at risk for many others who were aiming to qualify their nations for the ten remaining places into the Beijing Games.
A happy Jeemin Ha qualified Korea when he made it into the Gold fleet Finals two days ago. The remaining countries had to wait it out until today.
There was a fair amount of nervous tension as competitors in this Olympic single-handed class paced the boat park waiting for Race Officials to announce one way or the other whether racing at the ISAF Grade 1 Worlds would be possible. By afternoon, excessive seas, caused by huge southerly winds, had put to rest any thought of racing. “It’s too dangerous,” said Principle Race Officer Tony Denham, “we have a duty of care,” he said. That pronouncement suited some, but ended the Olympic hopes and dreams of others.
The final nine nations making the cut from the Silver fleet are: Switzerland (Max Bulley finished fifth), Japan (Yoichi Iijima, 10th), Malaysia (Kevin Lim, 15th), Singapore (Leong Seng Koh, 23rd), Venezuela (Jose Ruiz, 26th), Dominican Republic (Raul Aguayo, 31st), Igor Lisovenko (RUS, 32nd), Hungary (Zsombor Berecz) and Guatemala (Juan Maegli).
Qualifying ones nation does not necessarily mean an automatic entry to the Games for the competitor who qualified. A number will have to sail off against their compatriots in other regattas to claim their Beijing selection or prove to their national authorities that they are up to the job.
A point in case is Germany. Qualifying at the 2007 ISAF Worlds, five German competitors came to these Worlds. Of the five, four remarkably made it through to the Gold fleet Finals. Alexander Schlonski was best placed, finishing sixth overall – a fantastic effort. But now he will have to go home and plead his case to his national authority whom will make a decision.
Various other countries have as many as seven sailors in contention for one Olympic place. Canada is one of those; with six in contention. One, Michael Leigh, is World Ranked No. 5, but will have to sail off against six others to claim his place in Beijing.
In Australia, Slingsby was selected late last year, so to a degree, the pressure was less at this Championship. His next goal is to bring home an Olympic medal from Beijing in August.
This Championship was made possible by support from the NSW Government. For all information on the Gosford Sailing Club hosted Laser World’s, including mark roundings, photos and more on the Laser World Championship go to: http://aus08.laserinternational.org/