What the Olympic winners and losers said after an intense day afloat in Weymouth
Tom Slingsby – Laser Gold medallist
Words can’t describe how I feel. I have really been through the highs and lows of the sport in the past eight years. I came away heartbroken from China, but now I’m feeling on a sporting high – the happiest guy in the world right now. I have spent just three nights in my own bed this year so there have been a lot of sacrifices but this time, it has been worthwhile.
Yesterday I watched the Finns and the Stars and saw a couple of guys have the gold medal fall through their fingers and I said then and there that wasn’t going to be me. I was able to concentrate on pushing him down the fleet and it worked. In China I was never comfortable with the venue but this time whenever I did feel nerves, I thought about how well I’ve done in Weymouth. I focussed on myself and knew that if I did that, I would be OK.
This Weymouth venue suits the Australians. We have shown it every time at Skandia Sail for Gold where we are hard to beat. I think we will be top nation here – four really good chances of gold.
I have a one year contract with Oracle to see if I enjoy that world of sailing, but I’m not sure what I will do with my Olympic career. But I will definitely think about what I am feeling now when I’m thinking about another campaign.
Lijia Xu – Laser Radial Gold medallist
I feel very proud of myself and of my nation. I think it will let more people know about this sport and get them involved and feel the joy of steering a boat on the seas. I’m sure I will get a heroes welcome when I get home to China because I have a huge support team there as well.
I want to give a huge huge thanks to my coach John Emmett. He has taught me so much about real sailing because we don’t have this in China. He is much more professional than the Chinese coaches so he has taught me everything related to sailing.
So my knowledge has grown a lot. He analysed the sea breeze and cloud formations for me today and talked to me about how the wind would go this afternoon. The Nothe course was particularly shifty so you had to make out the wind pattern and follow the shifts.
I didn’t have a very good start so tacked to the right – I know where my strengths are. I made the most of everything today. I have enjoyed the freedom.
I’m feeling very happy – I can really relax now.
It was very intense racing and lots of swapping of places but I’m happy its all over. We only had one goal which was the gold medal. We worked really hard and were really selfish so we are a bit disappointed but maybe that might change tomorrow or next week. It’s nice to see my friends and family because I’ve spent so much time in Weymouth I have hardly seen them. It’s a shame I have been on the back foot all week because it’s been so windy. We gambled on it being all round conditions so I put my weight and strength into it and have been on the back foot and also this medal race was really tough. The other girls are much heavier than I am and in the flat water and strong winds I’m struggling for boat speed so yes, I’ve been on the back foot but it’s not an excuse and the Chinese girl definitely deserved to win. My downwind sailing has always been my strength but it was not good enough.
Both Ben and I have both been working on our own campaigns but I am really excited for him. I have worked really hard so we have kept really separate.
Ben give me tips on racing Lasers? He was in Lasers a long time ago so that’s a bit old school, but don’t tell him I said that. He’s an amazing sailor – definitely the greatest ever – so yeah, he deserved to win.
Now we are going to take a break. I have been pushing my coach Mark Littlejohn really hard – he had a hernia in 2008 and they said he was lucky to walk again so he has come a long way. The only thing that could have gone wrong with my Olympic campaign is if he had not been coaching me. I could not have done it with anyone else and would never do it with anyone else. He has all the skills – knows how to make a boat go fast and has taught me how to be an independent sailor. This will happen again in Rio but hopefully next time the medal will be a different colour.
Evi Van Acker
I had a good start and all week that has been my weak point so I’m happy that went well. The entire race I was not in front and got caught on the left side which wasn’t paying off. All week it has been left left left and now it was only right so at the last top mark, I was five boats behind Annalise so the only thing I could do was go right and go right hard so that is what I did. She could have luffed me or squeezed me out so I just went where the gusts were. I don’t really understand what happened. It has been a great week’s sailing here in Weymouth. Every sailors dream. There was no waiting because there no wind and no waiting because the winds were too strong so it was great. Having the crowd there on the Nothe was amazing. They did a really good job of selling the tickets there and it was fun going there after racing and wave the flags and see all our family and friends. The Nothe course is what it is and we did a lot of training there – its great to sail there because people get to know our sport better and we can get it more in the media so hopefully more people will start sailing because of it. Sailing on the Nothe is a bit like sailing on a lake. Last Belgian sailing medal was 16 years ago. No idea if I will be in Rio – have to finish my studies first. I think Rio de Janeiro sounds better than Weymouth but we might have to lose some weight.
I am pretty devastated but that happens in sport. I was on the wrong end of the four of us today and it was really tough. I feel like I had a brilliant event – if I got those kinds of points at any regatta I would be winning easily but the three other girls also had amazing events and it was always going to be very tough to beat them. If you had asked me a year ago, I would definitely have taken fourth but now it is so hard. I was first around the windward mark and lost out a lot downwind by going left but you just have to keep your eyes open and I guess I made a few decisions in the race that weren’t great and cost me in the end. I am only 22 and the youngest in the top ten so I will definitely carry on. I will work really hard over the next four years so hopefully come Rio in 2016 I will be able to give this a better shot. The hardest place to finish is fourth so it will push me to work harder and train harder overall. Everything was so close and happened so fast in that medal race and although I pulled back quite well, I couldn’t really do any more. Because the four of us were only a point apart, I knew anything could happen so was just trying to sail my own race and have good speed and try and get around ahead of everyone which was working for the first upwind but kind of started to fall apart after that.
It was a great experience to race on the Nothe in the medal race. It is amazing to see the support on the Nothe – gives you a boost to go out and try your best. I will carry on to Rio 2016. Lots of lessons learned from this that I can work on to get a medal in Rio. There were too many accumulated mistakes but something to work on. They were all my mistakes. After Sail for Gold I always thought I could medal and that was my aim so I’m disappointed with fifth but learning for the future. It was really tight all the way round.
Today I was in quite a lot of pain and saw the physio before I went out. For me I had it in my head it would be a shorter race so if I pushed as hard as I could it would be over quicker. I wanted to perform for all the people who have helped me get through this week and patched me together. I wanted to go out fighting just to finish it off even though I knew we weren’t going to win medals. I nailed the start pretty well and gave it everything up the first beat. Once I had pulled away down the first run I thought it was finally going to come right but then I had a penalty at the bottom of the run and I just chuckled to myself because I felt it just summed it up. Then got into the lead and had another penalty on the run – normally I get quite angry but again I just chuckled. I think did myself justice considering the shape I’m in. I have an MRI scan next week and a decision will be made on what needs to happen to get me fixed up but all I can do is rest and hope it will go away without having anything serious done.
It’s nice and sunny in Rio and maybe with lighter winds. Yeah for sure I want to be there. I love the Olympics. It’s what my life has been about for the last 12 years and I don’t really know what boat it will be in and how soon I will start my campaign for that but it is always special to do an Olympics and so so special to do well at an Olympics so I will go away and get fixed then start making some decisions around Christmas.
This week has been a disaster. The first race I went out there quite shy…didn’t want to mess it up the in the second race went out all guns blazing to try and win it and pushed so hard I got injured. I came in that day and wanted the physio to tell me it would be fine tomorrow. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. The next day I was in tears and it dawned on me it wasn’t going to be a quick fix – I knew I couldn’t win if I was only 85% . I have given it 100% but that is no good when it is nowhere near the other guys 100%. You are fighting a losing battle and it has been hard but I have given it my all.
Tom deserves this victory. He has been at the top of his game for a while now and I know how much he must have been hurting after Beijing because I hurt after Athens. You have to wait four years to get another go and the relief is tremendous when you get it right.