Australia’s sailors have secured two Gold Medals and are in contention for a third medal going into tomorrow’s final day of racing at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Australia’s Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch have become the first sailors to win back-to-back Paralympic Gold medals after wrapping up the win in the SKUD18 class in Rio overnight, with two races to spare. Meanwhile Colin Harrison, Russell Boaden and Jonathan Harris have wrapped up Gold in the Sonar class with one race still to be sailed. In the 2.4mR class, the competition is a lot closer for Matt Bugg, who is currently third overall and in still in medal contention for tomorrow.
Australia’s defending Paralympic champions in the SKUD18, Daniel Fitzgibbon & Liesl Tesch have eight wins and two second places on their near perfect scorecard. This gives them an unassailable lead going into the final day of racing.
“We’re loving it!” said Fitzgibbon at the conclusion of racing today. “Liesl and I can deal with everything and still come out on top!”
“This is a crazy sport!” said Tesch. “All those conditions that were getting flung at us out there on the bay, meant we had to be adaptable this week and we’ve shown we can deal with anything. We’ve really put in some hard yards in the lead up to Rio, and it’s paid off.
“It’s awesome having the Sonar boys in the gold medal position too, but now we need to hold it together for Matt Bugg to get him over the line.”
In the Sonar class Colin Harrison, Russell Boaden and Jonathan Harris have a similarly impressive scorecard, with all of their results, bar two, in the top three. The Aussies have become known for their ability to work their way back through the fleet though. On several occasions this week they didn’t have the best of starts, but their good handling and boat speed saw them work their way back through the fleet to finish in the top three. This was the case in today’s first race, where they were seventh around the top mark, but worked back up into second at the finish. In the final race of the day, the Aussies knew they needed a strong result to wrap up a medal, and came out strongly and led for most of the race.
“It won’t sink in until the medal is around the neck,” said Harrison “It’s an unreal feeling.”
“We’ve been together for the last three years and we’ve been on the podium for most of that time, so it’s good to finally get it done,” said Boaden.
“We’ve always been a point or two away, and this obliterates all those memories of small losses,” added Harris. “ Being the last Paralympics (with sailing not in Tokyo 2020) it’s a good one to win. The team we have around us seem to be there to get rid of any obstacles you have to sailing well and that’s a great thing!”
In the 2.4mR class, the competition has been a lot closer for Australia’s Matt Bugg. A photo finish yesterday saw him hold the lead overnight, but a tough first race today saw him drop back to second overall. Bugg crossed the line in 14th in today’s first race, but his consistent results throughout the week kept him in striking distance on the overall leaderboard. However, it was the second race today that caused the most controversy. Bugg appeared to be sailing well and crossed the finish line in first place, only to be disqualified in the protest room this evening for a port/starboard incident with the Spanish boat on the second beat. This leaves him third place overall, twelve points off GBR in first place and eleven points off FRA in second place. The USA boat is only two points behind Australia, so Bugg will need a strong result in tomorrow’s final race to hang onto a medal.
Racing continues tomorrow from noon Rio time (1am Sydney time) and one race is scheduled for each classes.