Lindsey Bell talks with Britain's 49er duo, Olympic sailing first-timers Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes, who take to the waters off Qingdao for the first day of racing in the 49er class on Sunday.
Olympic sailing first-timers Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes will fulfil a lifelong ambition when they take to the waters off Qingdao for the first day of racing in the 49er class on Sunday (10 August).
The Exmouth duo both harboured ambitions of competing at the Olympics from a young age, but having been selected for Team GB in the high performance skiff class, the pair are adamant they’re not just in Qingdao for the t-shirt.
'A long time ago I dreamt about going to the Olympics, I’d watched the track and field and loved the idea of people getting on with their thing so going to the Olympics myself is amazing but not really the finished article unless we win a medal,' said Morrison.
'It’s all nice but it’s only another piece in the jigsaw.' Team GB has a medal-winning history in the 49er event since its Olympic debut at the Sydney Games in 2000, where Ian Barker and Simon Hiscocks earned silver and Hiscocks and Chris Draper claimed bronze in Athens four years ago.
Medal success in this popular and dynamic Olympic class has brought about a strong British pool of talent, and gave rise to a tough selection battle in which Morrison and Rhodes earned the nod for the sole British berth over their Athens bronze medal-winning teammates.
'The British selection process is pretty ruthless, albeit it pretty efficient, and we were up against basically the best guys in the world for this slot,' explained Rhodes.
Morrison and Rhodes have regularly graced the podium at major world events, including bronze, gold and silver medals from the past three 49er World Championships, and the Olympic Test Event victory at Qingdao in 2007 so they are proven performers on the Olympic race track.
But Rhodes is keeping level-headed ahead of the first days’ racing.
'I like to deal with each regatta as they come and no matter how important it is it shouldn’t matter when you’re on the water.
'I’m hoping that once I’m on the water I’d deal with it like any other race and take it as it comes.' Racing for the 49er fleet gets underway on Sunday at 13:00 hrs local time - 06:00 in the UK- with three races scheduled for the class.
Also in action for Team GB on day two of the Olympic regatta will be Ben Ainslie and the Yngling trio of Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson, with races three and four scheduled for both the Finn and Yngling classes.
Team GBR - The names and the faces - http://www.sail-world.com/UK/Team-GBR---The-names-and-the-faces/47353
Qingdao-Racing-Schedule - http://www.sail-world.com/UK/Qingdao-Racing-Schedule/47381
RYA event website - www.rya.org.uk/beijing2008