Aus­tralia dom­i­nates Par­a­lympics as sport’s 2020 sur­vival in doubt

Yachting World - - On The Wind -

Aus­tralia marked it­self out as the dom­i­nant sail­ing na­tion in the Rio 2016 Par­a­lympics, tak­ing two Golds and one Sil­ver medal. SKUD 18 sailors Daniel Fitzgib­bon and Liesl Tesch (AUS) won nine races, dis­card­ing a 2nd place to take Gold with ease, and be­com­ing the first Paralympic sailors ever to de­fend their ti­tle.

It was closer for sil­ver, with John Mcroberts and Jackie Gay (CAN) just pip­ping Alexan­dra Rick­ham and Niki Bir­rell (GBR) who take their sec­ond Bronze medal.

The Aus­tralian Sonar team of Colin Har­ri­son, Rus­sell Boaden and Jonathan Har­ris also won gold with a race to spare, while USA’S Alphon­sus Do­err and Canada’s Paul Tin­g­ley and crews took Sil­ver and Bronze re­spec­tively.

There was dis­ap­point­ment for the Bri­tish Sonar team of John Robert­son, Han­nah Stodel and Steve Thomas who scored three wins in suc­ces­sion, but also picked up a DSQ to fin­ish 9th over­all.

In the 2.4-me­tre Damien Seguin also be­came a dou­ble Paralympic gold medal­list by de­feat­ing Matt Bugg of Aus­tralia, with Wey­mouth 2012 cham­pion He­lena Lu­cas fin­ish­ing 3rd af­ter her rud­der picked up de­bris from Gua­n­abara Bay.

This will be the last re­gatta at a Paralympic Games for at least eight years, as the sport was con­tro­ver­sially de­s­e­lected from the Paralympic Games for Tokyo 2020.

The In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee cited three rea­sons for de­s­e­lect­ing the sport: gov­er­nance, fi­nan­cial rea­sons, and par­tic­i­pa­tion. World Sail­ing has since taken over man­age­ment and fund­ing of Paralympic sail­ing. Par­tic­i­pa­tion, how­ever, is a ma­jor stum­bling block and will need to in­crease glob­ally if the sport is to be re­in­stated for the 2024 Olympic Games.

Be­tween now and then the boats used in Paralympic com­pe­ti­tion will be re­con­sid­ered. Dis­abled sail­ing cam­paigner Ge­off Holt says that the cam­paign to re­in­state sail­ing has been boosted by an an­nounce­ment that the Ja­panese Sail­ing As­so­ci­a­tion will host a Paralympic-style World Cup event in 2020, ei­ther be­fore or af­ter the Par­a­lympics them­selves.

“But what they re­ally have to do is to get to the magic 32 na­tions to re­gain the el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria from the In­ter­na­tional Paralympic Com­mit­tee,” he says. Cur­rently there are 26 ac­knowl­edged na­tions with ac­tive Paralympic rac­ing. “IPC want to see a devel­op­ment pro­gramme, and a clear rac­ing path­way and pro­gramme in each mem­ber na­tion.”

“My big­gest con­cern is that for those who have been com­pet­ing at elite level, there is no more fund­ing, so they will just move into some­thing else,” com­ments Holt. “Eight years is a life­time in sport. I worry that mo­men­tum will be lost.”

Tesch and Fitzgib­bon (AUS) Damien Seguin (FRA)

be­came the first Paralympic sailors to win back-to-back golds

Above: A sec­ond gold medal for Aus­tralia in the three-man Sonar Left:

took a sec­ond 2.4-me­tre gold.

Top: The SKUD 18 fleet un­der the iconic Christ the Redeemer Sec­ond top:

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