Laser favourites Tom Slingsby of Australia and GBR's Paul Goodison have been outrun by a young Cyprus sailor
In the Lasers, the duel for Olympic Gold was supposed to be a tussle between Britain’s defending medallist, Paul Goodison, and Tom Slingsby, a sailor with so many expecations on his shoulder he is being dubbed Australia’s Ben Ainslie.
This week is showing, however, that the Olympic narrative can harbour a few unpredictable turns. Right now the tale is not about Slingsby v. Goodison but about Slingsby against a little-known Cypriot sailor, Pavlos Kontides.
He will be a guy to watch today as the Laser series resumes.
Kontides begins the day with the slenderest advantage over the Australia, a one point lead, but it has put him 1st overall and he has won two of the six races so far. Can he keep up his form?
What cool-headed strategy has he been working on while Slingsby and Goodison were squaring up to each other like a pair of stags in the warm-up regattas in Palma and Weymouth?
Can he keep up this run?
Kontides’s form is not a complete surprise. He competed in his first Olympics in Qingdao four years ago, when he finished 13th. He was only 18 then. This time round, he says, he is aiming to bring a medal back to Cyprus.
He started sailing in an Optimist at the age of 9. Like so many of the Olympic sailors he is following a family obsession: his father Panayiotis, a doctor, was a top sailor when he was younger and has been president of the Cyprus Yachting Association.
He makes the point that although the weather at home is perfect for all year round training, promising sailors don’t have anything like the funding or support of countries like Australia or Britain, which provide a pretty reasonable living for their sailors.
Kontides points out that although there is some state funding in Cyprus you need to have family support to compete at the highest level in any sport.
“My family supports me the most, both financially and psychologically. Lately, the state has made some steps forward in support of the sport. However, because sailing has high costs, I wouldn’t have made it without the support of my family,” he explains.
Kontides says one of his mottos is the saying: ‘the pain in our bodies is passing, but the glory is eternal’.
Paul Goodison might not put it in quite the same way, but that will be the philosophy driving him towards a comeback – he admitted on Tuesday that he is fighting through the pain of a recurrent back injury.
That and the thought of getting right back up at the top of the fleet to wrangle a two-hander with this former mate and now arch-enemy Tom Slingsby.