By World Sailing (as amended by SKUD18)
The Rio Paralympic Games Sailing competition has wrapped up with the final race sailed today.
Sailing in the SKUD18 fleet were the only sailors in history to defend a Paralympic title. That honour was bestowed on Australia’s Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch with two races to spare in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Sailing Competition. Sailing on day five was just a victory lap. A victory lap they still finished second place in.
Fighting behind the dominant Aussies were John McRoberts and Jackie Gay (CAN), Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell (GBR) and Monika Gibes and Piotr Cichocki (POL).
The Polish world champions approached the start line knowing they had to put boats between themselves and both the Canadian and Great British teams. They sailed perfectly to take the bullet in the final race, but with only the Australian gold medallists behind, it was not to be for Gibes and Cichocki. They had finished fourth overall.
McRoberts and Gay had the advantage over their British rivals on the overnight leaderboard. But from the start of the race, they fell behind. In the latter stages of the race they came back alongside the British for a wrestling match, which also included a potential Italian spanner in the works.
The to-ing and fro-ing between the three teams continued right to the end. Canada crossed in third for silver. With the Polish team taking the bullet, Great Britain had to stay ahead of the battling Italians to take the fourth. They did, and with that the bronze medal.
Knowing that they had the silver medal, McRobert and Gay had time to reflect on the stress leading up to the Games which had their participation in doubt, “We sailed very well and came in well rested. Jackie had a small injury beforehand and there was a time where we were unsure what the future would hold,” explained Mc Roberts.
Gay interuppted, “I only got signed off to sail the day before the practice race at 1o’clock. Until then we weren’t sure. I fell off the boat and hit the trailer with my head quite badly.”
McRoberts continued, “Jackie’s a real trooper. She’s got real pain threshold so when she says she’s in pain, she’s in major pain. She was in major pain. Thanks to the Canadian team, they took great care of us. They were a blessing.”
The threat of missing out may have been a blessing in disguise for the Canadians. It changed their attitude to the whole competition, “We had a really good start,” began McRoberts, “Normally I can’t eat or sleep but that wasn’t the case. I put myself into the head space that I was going to enjoy the experience. A lot of times I put a lot of pressure on myself and that doesn’t really do anything for me except negative thoughts. Sailing is a sport where you need to be loosey goosey and it’s all about feel.
“Something special happened to us. We blessed Cristo [Christ the Redeemer] every day, had our patience hats on and communicated well.”
From Canadian belief to Great British relief. Bronze medallist Rickham said, “We are relieved. It’s been a long, very hard week for us. We came here hoping to contest for the gold but that slipped away quite quickly. We’re so happy to get a medal. It was close to being silver but the Sugarloaf course just didn’t play out for us. John [McRoberts] and Jackie [Gay] sailed well and really deserved that medal. We’re just elated. It’s great to be able to come away from our second Games with another medal.”
Final results and link to photo gallery and stories available here.
Photo © Richard Langdon / World Sailing