Repeat of British sailing Olympic medal haul ‘unlikely’
Great Britain's Olympic sailing team leader Stephen Park plays down chances of repeat of Beijing success
Stephen Park believes Great Britain’s sailors will struggle to match their medal exploits from Beijing at next year’s London Olympics.
Ben Ainslie and ten others were the first names to be confirmed the 550-strong British team for London 2012, with selections in seven of the ten sailing classes now locked down.
In over 100 years of Olympic history, Great Britain has consistently been a fleet leader, winning 50 Olympic medals, including 25 golds.
And three years ago in Beijing they delivered a record six medals – four of them gold.
But Park, the Royal Yachting Association’s Olympic manager, is cautioning against a repeat performance on home waters.
“We have the aim to win four medals and we also want to be ‘medal competitive’ in each of the ten classes, so perhaps, if things go well, then we will win more than four,” said Park.
“The rest of the world are chasing us very hard and are doing whatever they can to knock us off the podium.
“Realistically, considering the improvement of other nations, it will be very tough for anyone to reach the six medal tally we had in Beijing next year.”
Each nation can only field one sailor per Olympic class, leaving Park and his colleagues on the RYA’s selection panel with some difficult decisions, and even more difficult phone calls, in recent days.
Three-time Olympic champion Ben Ainslie edged out Giles Scott and Ed Wright, even though they occupied the top two positions on the world rankings in the heavyweight dinghy Finn class.
Paul Goodison, the reigning Olympic champion in Laser fleet, saw off competition from highly-ranked domestic rival Nick Thompson.
“If we were able to field two or three athletes in each event there would be more than one athlete on the podium with a GB tracksuit, I’m sure of that,” added Park.
“It’s disappointing for those athletes who have got themselves into the top three in the world and still don’t get the opportunity to represent their country.
“The hardest job is to make the phone call to those people to tell them they will not going to the Olympic Games, especially when those Games are being staged in their home country.
“If we were in the transfer market, we’d do pretty well, lots of nations would love those athletes we’ve not selected in their squads.”
Park is confident that Scott, Wright and Thompson will still be involved, assisting the team in a series of tune-up events, and, he insists, all are young enough to refocus their Olympic ambitions on Rio 2016.
Those classes not selected – the men’s 470 and 49er and the women’s Laser radial – will be decided after the ISAF World Championships in Perth later this year.
The regatta in Australia is expected to see windy conditions – quite different from what is expected in Weymouth next summer.
Normally that would require sailors to bulk up but Park admits medals at world level might be sacrificed with London 2012 in mind.
“There are pros and cons to selecting early and some of the guys would have preferred to be selected even earlier,” added Park.
“The Worlds will be a windy weather regatta but the selectors can now decide whether there is a need to compromise a little bit of preparation there, while still respecting the fact it is the World Championships, in order to keep our eyes on the further prize next summer.”