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Henri-Lloyd 2020 LEADERBOARD USA Newsletter: U.S. almost suffers a medal ceremony shutout


U.S. almost suffers a medal ceremony shutout at the Sailing World Championships Aarhus 2018

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Daniela Moroz - photo © US Sailing

Dear Recipient Name

Olympic sailors operate in quadrennial cycles that are punctuated at the top end by the Olympic Games, followed by years of training, wood shedding and competing on lower-lever circuits and qualifying for the next Olympic Games. Stirred into this mix are World Sailing's also-quadrennial Sailing World Championships, which offer sailors a high-level and fully international opportunity to test their skills and speed against their rivals, usually with a reasonable amount of time on the clock to improve specific skills or strategy before the exclamation mark known as the Olympic Games hoves into calendar view. Such was the story for thousands of international sailors who recently gathered in Aarhus, Denmark for the Hempel Sailing World Championships Aarhus 2018 (July 30-August 12), and while the Dutch-flagged team sailed away with a stellar report card, the same cannot be said for U.S.-flagged efforts.

A bit of backstory. The U.S. team was dominant at the Perth 2011 ISAF (now World Sailing) Sailing World Championships (December 3-11, 2011), however this racecourse mastery utterly collapsed by the following August, when the starting guns began sounding for the London 2012 Summer Olympics, as the U.S.-flagged team suffered their first medal ceremony shutout in the sport of sailing since the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

Caleb Paine celebrates bronze in the Finn class at the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition - photo © Sailing Energy / World Sailing
Caleb Paine celebrates bronze in the Finn class at the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition - photo © Sailing Energy / World Sailing

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Call it a combination of peaking too soon, coupled with a perfect storm of other contributing factors (including but certainly not limited to funding, coaching, U.S. college sailing, geography, and inadequate international exposure and experience), but this was a shake-up that no one saw coming, especially given the team's dominance at Perth, just eight months prior.

Unfortunately for fans who love listening to the Star Spangled Banner at Olympic sailing medal ceremonies, the team came precariously close to repeating their dismal performance at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics until U.S. Finn sailor Caleb Paine worked some serious sorcery to claim a hard-won bronze medal.

While the U.S. team has been making some solid strides in recent months, including a new training facility on the West Coast and a great performance at this year's World Sailing's Youth World Championships (July 14-21), which took place in Corpus Christi, Texas (the former bolstering the team's heavy-air preparations and the latter demonstrating that the team's talent pipeline is working), the team again suffered a medal ceremony shutout in Denmark, with the sole exception of Daniela Moroz's dominant, gold-winning performance in Women's Kiteboarding at the Formula Kite World Championships, which were included as part of Hempel Sailing World Championships Aarhus 2018.

Daniela Moroz and Coach Robbie Dean at the 2018 Hempel Sailing Worlds Medal Ceremony - photo © US Sailing
Daniela Moroz and Coach Robbie Dean at the 2018 Hempel Sailing Worlds Medal Ceremony - photo © US Sailing

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While Moroz's gold medal is certainly a huge victory for this highly talented kiter, as well as for U.S. kiteboarding ambitions, it's important to note that kiteboarding is expected to be included as an official Olympic event for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, but it will not be part of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.

In fact, aside from Moroz's impressive performance, U.S. sailors' high water marks in Denmark were a fifth-place finish in the Laser Radials (Paige Railey), a seventh-place finish in the Men's 470 class (Stu McNay and Dave Hughes), as well as some rather off-the-pace results in the Laser (11th place), Finn (12th place), Women's 470 (37th place), Nacra 17 Foiling (22nd place), 49er (34th place), 49erFX (25th place), Men's Kiteboarding (16th place), RS:X Men's (58th place) and the RS:X Women's (48th place).

Paige Railey (USA) - Laser Radial - Day 7 - Hempel Sailing World Championships, Aarhus, Denmark, August 7, 2018 - photo © Sailing Energy / World Sailing
Paige Railey (USA) - Laser Radial - Day 7 - Hempel Sailing World Championships, Aarhus, Denmark, August 7, 2018 - photo © Sailing Energy / World Sailing

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While the USA's results in the Laser radials, the Men's 470, the Finn, and the Laser classes demonstrate opportunity for these talented athletes to progress to the medal ceremony come the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, some of these other scores beg the question if the U.S.-flagged team is tracking for better results in Tokyo than they realized at either the Rio or London Olympics.

Still, it's critical to remember that almost a full 24 months remain between now and the start of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, and it's also critical to remember the lessons of the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships, namely that there's such a thing as peaking too early.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt, North American Editor

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