Wed, Aug 08, 2012 - Page 19 News List

London 2012 Olympics: Aussies grab first sailing gold, Cyprus claim silver

Reuters, WEYMOUTH, England

Pavlos Kontides of Cyprus celebrates winning the silver medal in the men’s Laser sailing race in Weymouth, England, on Monday.

Photo: EPA

Australia captured their first gold sailing medal of the London Games on Monday and eyed a second when Tom Slingsby achieved his Olympic dream after 12 years of preparation to win the men’s Laser race.

His challenger, 22-year-old student Pavlos Kontides, who won Cyprus’ first Olympic medal with the silver, refused to let the emotional weight of his effort distract him throughout the championship.

“I still don’t understand how huge an achievement it is for my country ... [but I will] when I get back home with my compatriots with the silver medal around my neck,” Kontides said after the race.

Kontides’ parents were at the medal ceremony at the Weymouth and Portland Sailing Centre and his father said: “It’s not ended. Things will get better. Gold in the next Olympics. You can count on my word.”

Sweden’s Rasmus Myrgren won bronze and took Sweden’s sailing medal tally to two after Sunday’s gold medal in the Star class.

China’s world championship silver medalist Xu Lijia raced to victory in the women’s Laser Radial medal race in front of thousands of spectators on the Nothe viewing point overlooking the medal course.

She sailed her three-lap race with great control, barely losing ground as she suffered a penalty turn for rocking her boat skimming downwind.

The first four entered the race with only one point between them.

Marit Bouwmeester, who was joint first with Xu at the start of the medal race, won the silver for the Netherlands.

The world champion and girlfriend of fellow sailor Ben Ainslie, praised after winning his fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal on Sunday as the best Olympic sailor ever, said: “All my worst enemies were out there today ... the flat water and strong winds ... the gold is always the main goal ... if you ask me tomorrow, I will be fine. Today, I am a bit disappointed.”

Belgium’s Evi Van Acker took the bronze.

Away from the medal races on Monday the Australians were eyeing another gold in the men’s 49er, the flying twin trapeze skiff class.

At the end of the 15 qualifying races the clear favorites and four-time world champions Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen were already 28 points ahead of their of their closest rivals from New Zealand.

That meant the Australians go into the medal race today with an unassailable lead, but in the spirit of Olympic sailing they will have to enter and finish the medal race to be crowned Olympic champions.

The Aussies led the field throughout the championship with five firsts and two seconds, leaving the New Zealand pair of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke in their wake on 76 points, with Denmark’s Allan Norregaard and Peter Lang trailing in third place 60 points behind.

The Kiwis took silver in each of the last two world championships.

Both races on Monday were taking place on the Nothe course where gusty winds were proving tricky for competitors throughout the regatta.

The Netherlands also secured a gold medal before the medal race in the men’s windsurfing RS-X event.

Dorian van Rijsselberge, the tall bald-headed Dutchman whose breakfast choices enter into every description of his pre-race preparation, was already in an unbeatable position at the end of the 10 qualifying races.

The race for silver was also looking like a foregone conclusion as British challenger Nick Dempsey moved into second place, 11 points ahead of Germany’s Toni Wilhelm.

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