Laser Radial shoot out was an incredible quick fire race with multiple lead changes

Four into three was never going to go as the top Laser Radial sailors entered today’s medal race. After the nail biting battle of points yesterday that saw Gold won from the back of the fleet, today’s race promised to be a good old fashioned battle.
Tears of despair and tears of joy were guaranteed, who they came from was not.

China’s Lijia Xu was leading the field going into today on even points with Dutch sailor Marit Bouwmeester. One point behind them Ireland’s Annalise Murphy and Belgium’s Evi van Acker were on equal points in second.

The start was clean as the pack headed out to the left hand side but within a few second Lijia Xu had broken out to the right, a big gamble on a race course that often favours the left but always rattles the nerves as the breeze oscillates. A few minutes later Xu looked good but it was Murphy who rounded the first mark in the lead, Xu second and Britain’s Alison Young in third.

Then the first shock, as gold Xu who was in Gold medal position was given a penalty turn by the umpires.

Seconds later a triple sandwich developed going into the bottom gate for the first time as the top three scrapped into the crucial first leeward mark rounding. All made it through cleanly with Xu back inn the lead, Bouwmeester second and Young third. Murphy had crashed out of her leading position and dropped to ninth.

At the second windward mark Xu had held her lead and Murphy was back in second, the pace of this race was electric. Bouwmeester had fallen to 8th – nerves were jangling.

By the next bottom mark Xu was still leading, Young second but Bouwmeester had now jumped up to third, her medal prospects were now back. At this point the order was China Gold, Holland Silver and Belgium Bronze.

At the final windward mark China’s Xu was still in the lead, GBR’s Young third, Bouwmeester in third, Murphy was in third. While gaps had opened up between the boats the racing was still incredibly close, only Lijia Xu had anything close to a reasonable leading margin.

Around the final mark Xu still led as she headed towards Gold, Bouwmeester rounded in second, Blegiums Evi van Acker rounded third, the order remaining to the finish.

As indeed did the medals.

Gold – China – Lijia Xu
Silver – Holland – Marit Bouwmeester
Bronze – Belgium – Evi van Acker

For the first time in these sailing Games, the medals matched the finishing order in a thrilling medal race. For spectators and competitors it simply doesn’t get better than this.

This was Lijia Xu’s second Olympic medal, in 2008 she had won a Bronze, now in 2012 it was Gold.

“I gave it my best for Weymouth, the whole world and for my country China,” she said straight after the race. How had she kept her composure during the race?

“I kept my calm, I was nervous and I think everyone was.”

A feeling that all who watched the race could share.

Big day for British 470 men as they win the first race of the day having led by a big margin all the way round. The Australians finished third.