Head to head at the back of the fleet to win Gold and Silver Olympic medals
In the build up to the Games many were expecting the story in the Laser class to be about two men and the rest, Australia’s Tom Slingsby versus Britain’s Paul Goodison. The pair, formerly close friends have become fierce rivals, but the prospect of a medal race shoot out between them was over before it had begun. Goodison fell out of the running with a back injury. He was still in the medal race but with no prospect of a medal. The best he could do was to win the final race in front of a home crowd.
By the time the medal race came around, Slingsby had a healthy points lead and was assured of a medal, but so was Cyriot sailor Pavlos Kontides. This was to be another match race but with a bigger points gap, a possible return to a battle of points rather than boat lengths.
Shortly after the start Slingsby and Kontides pushed hard to get to the right on the first beat before getting into a seriously close match race driven largely by the man behind, Kontides. The jury followed their very move, they too knew that this was a battle that mattered.
By the first weather mark it was Paul Goodison who led, Uruguay was second and Germany third. Meanwhile the battle for Gold was being played out once again at the back of the fleet as Slingsby led Kontides around the windward mark in 8th and 9th place. As they planed down the first downwind leg the two continued to lock horns.
By the leeward mark Slingsby was still ahead of his main rival but only by a metre or two. Goodison had slipped to second as the German sailor Simon Groteluschen took the lead.
On the second beat the battle between Australia and Cyprus continued as they matched each other tack for tack.
At the next windward mark rounding Groteluschen led, Uruguay’s Alejandro Foglia-Costa was in second, Goodison was third. Meanwhile the battle for the medals had now moved right to the back of the fleet with Slingsby keeping Kontides in check to secure an Australian Gold.
But there was another private battle going on between Sweden and Croatia for the bronze medal. By the halfway stage the Swede Rasmus Myrgren was lying in Bronze as he led the Croatian by three places. One of those three was Paul Goodison who was given a penalty and dropped back into the fray.
On the last downwind leg Gold had become a formality as the runway ran out for Kontides as he was denied any prospect of beating Slingsby by enough places, he had however taken Silver. This was the Olympic first medal for Cyprus in any sport.
Further up the field the only remaining medal to be decided was being grabbed by the Swede Rasmus Myrgren as he crossed the line in sixth.
But the Golden moment came from Slingsby as he screamed loud enough to drown out the PA system on the Nothe in relief. For a man who was devastated in China in 2008 and considered leaving the sport, he came back into the Games as the favourite and has kept his composure throughout a very tense Games.
Gold – Australia – Tom Slingsby
Silver – Cyprus – Pavlos Kontides
Bronze – Sweden – Rasmus Myrgren
But as the national flags were waved news started to come in that the race committee had a protest against the Swedish sailor. It would be a while before we could find out whether this would change the medals.
As the sailors streamed ashore Pavlos Kontides was among the first to comment on his achievement.
“I’ve managed to make history here in London, I always believed in myself and worked hard with my coaches but I don’t think it will sink in until I get back home.”