Nick Scandone and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker of the USA clinched the gold medal in the SKUD-18 fleet Friday with two races left to go in the Paralympic regatta. The unstoppable team won two more races today, strengthening their substantial nine-point lead ahead of their competitors.
John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis.) sits in second place in the 2.4 mR fleet, while the Sonar team of Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), Tim Angle (Marblehead, Mass.) and Bill Donohue (Brick, N.J.), had their single best racing day of the regatta today.
Scandone and McKinnon-Tucker plan to race Saturday, the last day of the regatta, even though they have already secured the gold medals. 'It’s almost hard to believe,' said Scandone, incredulously. 'I won’t feel like it’s real until the gold medal is placed around my neck.'
'I feel exhausted, very satisfied and somewhat overwhelmed all at the same time,' he said. 'It’s been such a long road to get here,' he said. 'It’s emotionally overwhelming for me to finally realize my goal.'
For Scandone, this gold medal is everything he has dreamed of and worked hard to achieve. As his condition progressed from ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, it became increasingly more difficult to train and compete. There were days filled with doubt, but he met each obstacle with the same strength and determination he had as a young, able-bodied sailor. 'This is something I’ve strived for since I was 20 years old, when I was trying to go for gold in the 470 class. Now, to reach that goal,' he said, 'it’s hard to describe in words.'
Mary-Kate Scandone has supported her husband every step of his Olympic and Paralympic journey, through the accomplishments and the adversity and through the enthusiasm and exhaustion. 'I have seen struggles behind the scenes that were so tremendous to overcome,' she said. 'It was so hard to just get here. There were many times Nick doubted he was going to make it to China.'
'I feel so much joy that he has achieved this goal,' she added. 'Now it’s time to go home and rest.'
This is a bittersweet moment for the couple. 'It’s everything we’ve been fighting for,' said Mary-Kate. 'Sailing and his [Paralympic] goal has kept him alive.' In an emotional moment, Mary-Kate thanked the designer of Nick’s boat 'because he gave me four more years with my husband,' she said.
Today, they are basking in the moment of this momentous experience. 'Let’s think about today and every moment and every second of this experience,' Mary-Kate told Nick. 'It’s still not over yet.'
Nick Scandone credits a team of people who have assisted him in reaching his Paralympic goals. 'This gold medal is not only for me and Maureen,' he said. 'It’s for all the other people who have helped me along the way, from my yacht club to family and friends who have supported me throughout my venture.'
The entire team celebrated Scandone and McKinnon-Tucker’s gold medal achievement today after racing, providing their teammates the confidence and positive mental attitude going into the last day of racing. 'Their gold medal performance is a combination of a lot of hard work two of them to put together,' said an ecstatic Head Coach Betsy Alison (Newport, R.I.). 'I couldn’t be prouder of our team and our athletes’ efforts. Everyone is supporting each other.'
The final two races of the regatta are scheduled for Saturday, September 13. The medals will also be awarded. The regatta includes a total of eleven races over five days throughout the week. There will not be a medal race in the Paralympic Regatta, unlike the Olympic Regatta last month.