Medal rush for sailors

There was a medal rush for New Zealand sailors today, but the gold and two silvers came in vastly different circumstances.

Blair Tuke and Peter Burling had the luxury of sailing their medal race in the 49ers knowing the gold medal was theirs no matter what, because they had built up such a commanding lead earlier in the competition.

Tuke and Burling, silver medallists in London four years ago, were heavy favourites going into the Rio Olympics and fully justified that rating with a superb series. They proved their point by winning the medal race today and finished their competition with just 35 points, way ahead of Australia on 78 and Germany, 83.

Polly Powrie and Jo Aleh were the defending women’s 470 champions and in truth looked the best team in Rio. However, they were hit with disqualifications in two races they dominated and it proved to big just too big a hurdle in retaining their crown. They went into the medal race today in second place, but with several teams nipping at their heels.

The New Zealanders sailed beautifully and came through late to snatch third place, which was enough to confirm the silver medal for them. Great Britain won the gold with 44 points. Aleh and Powrie were next on 54, and then France, the Netherlands and Japan were close behind.

Alex Maloney and Molly Meech in the women’s 49ers began their medal race in an unusual situation. Four teams were within a point of each other so it was a matter of who raced best on the day.

The medal race was a thriller, with Brazil, Italy and New Zealand engaged in a virtual match race. Going into the last leg, either Brazil or New Zealand could have won the gold medal. As it was the Brazilians were popular (with the home crowd) winners, the New Zealanders were second. Brazil finished with 48 points to New Zealand's 51 and Denmark's 54.

Meech said later she and Maloney were really pleased with how they sailed the final race.

“We got a nice jump on them early on, and then there were some 50:50 decisions,” she said. “We did our best, but credit to the Brazilians – they sailed a great race.”

She said as they chased down the Brazilians over the last leg they began to get more excited about the prospect of snatching the race – and the gold. “We never overtook them, but it was getting close. We did all we could. It was an awesome feeling being involved in a race like that.”

The three New Zealand medals won today, plus the bronze won by laser sailor Sam Meech earlier, made for a successful regatta for the New Zealand sailors.

Men’s 470 sailors Paul Snow-Hansen and Daniel Willcox finished sixth in their medal race an were 10th overall.

Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games Blair Tuke Peter Burling Paul Snow-Hansen Daniel Willcox Polly Powrie Jo Aleh Molly Meech Sam Meech Alexandra Maloney Sailing
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