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Team USA sailors ready for Tokyo 2020; Racing begins July 25

by US Sailing Team 23 Jul 06:44 PDT 25 July - 4 August, 2021
Women's 470 class athletes Nikole Barnes (St. Thomas, USVI) and Lara Dallman-Weiss (Shoreview, Minn.) compete in practices races as Mt. Fuji looms across Sagami Bay near the island of Enoshima. © Sailing Energy / US Sailing

Nearly half a decade after the previous Olympic sailing regatta concluded in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 13 American athletes in nine classes are ready to race at Tokyo 2020.

With Mt. Fuji providing a majestic backdrop to the racecourses off Enoshima, Japan, the US Sailing Team will compete on one of the biggest stages in international sports. Sailing fans watching from the U.S. will be able to experience the racing both live and on replay through NBC Olympics starting at 11:00 PM EDT on July 24 (8:00 PM PDT).

"Being an Olympian is a unique honor achieved by few. Winning an Olympic medal is one of the most difficult challenges in our sport," said Paul Cayard, an Athens 2004 U.S. Olympian and the Executive Director of U.S. Olympic Sailing. "Our Tokyo athletes and staff have worked relentlessly to prepare for this event, and instead of letting Covid-related obstacles grow into distractions, they have emerged from this 5-year campaign as a stronger unit. This is a team that all American sailors can really be proud of. I think we will outperform."

The yearlong delay to the Games presented challenges for the U.S. Olympic sailing program and its international competitors. Nevertheless, American athletes and the national team's performance staff worked to turn the extra time before the games into a safe and productive period of improvement.

"Our sailors, coaches, staff and local volunteers have navigated this delay of the Games with incredible patience and determination," said Meredith Muller Brody, US Sailing's Olympic Director and Team Leader for Tokyo 2020.

"The pandemic forced us to adapt to changing circumstances, but we also used the extra time before Tokyo 2020 to take a deep dive into all aspects of our Olympic program. We made real gains and built a strong infrastructure on the ground in Japan. Thanks to a generous donor, we invested in assets like new container-based athlete support facilities that we can use for many years to come. On top of that, the smooth entry of our team and equipment onto the field of play for training this week is something that was just really exciting to see."

With over 350 competitors from 65 nations having arrived in Japan, rigged their boats, and logged training sessions off Enoshima, the focus of the world's best dinghy, skiff, multihull and board sailors can now finally turn to racing. In terms of what to expect from the racecourses on Sagami Bay, there is much for medal hopefuls to consider.

"Like any Olympics, you've got to be ready for it all," said Luther Carpenter, the Head Coach of the US Sailing Team. "We've been here for over a week and it's been the same 6-11 knots [of wind] for our training each day. But [at the Test Event] in 2019, we had massive swells and waves for two or three weeks [at the same time of year], and we came home from that trip thinking that if you can't deliver in heavy air and big waves, you're not going to win. And so it's kind of a cool venue in that regard and honestly I think a lot of us hope for a pretty wide palette of conditions. That would create medalists from from this Games who are complete sailors and who rose to meet all challenges."

To get ready to perform, the US Sailing Team has been busy prepping not only their equipment and their physical conditioning, but also their mental game.

"We had a lot of feedback from prior U.S. Olympic sailing medalists, many of whom help guide our current sailors, that getting into their normal routine is important," said Carpenter, who has coached American sailors to five medals in four classes across eight Olympics.

"The Olympics is a game of bringing your confidence to the playground. A confident athlete, or a confident coach, is one who's out there secure in their own skills, and stimulated about what little things they can adapt to their already-complete game. I think that all of the athletes we have with us in Japan have brought a strong game while remaining coachable, receptive and positive. It's a pleasure to coach them."

Anchoring the NBC broadcast for sailing will be veteran commentator Gary Jobson, who will bring a 2-hour daily program to U.S. sailing fans each night. There will be two televised race areas per day, the "Enoshima" and "Kamakura" courses. As the classes rotate through those two areas day to day, different athletes will be featured on the broadcast.

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