Looking back on 2014 as we pass the halfway marker to Rio 2016.
By Josh Adams, Managing Director of US Olympic Sailing
Our team’s theme in 2014 could be summarized in a word: urgency. Athletes, coaches, and management of the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider felt the urgency to advance our Rio 2016 effort by logging the necessary hours of high quality training; fully launching our team’s Rio training operation; and getting results on the water in the 10 Olympic and 3 Paralympic classes. Year Two of the Olympic Quadrennium is a critical now-or-never time to get ahead of the competition, and I’m pleased to report that the team has delivered on many aspects of our 2014 high-performance plan.
September’s ISAF Sailing World Championships in Santander, Spain, was the peak event of 2014 for the US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider and our competition. We sent a large team of American sailors to Spain and had some shining performances by the team’s top athletes. In fact, the team’s five best results were individual career-bests and significant improvements on the athletes’ 2013 Worlds results. In each of these cases, US athletes established themselves as Rio contenders:
- Stu McNay & Dave Hughes, 5th in 470 men. Stu and Dave are 470 veterans, and very professional in their approach to racing and technical development. They have been on a steady trajectory toward Rio, leading the way for our team and posting top scores in a highly competitive fleet while showing consistency.
- Charlie Buckingham, 7th in Laser. This has been a career year for Charlie, who has established himself in the deep fleet of Lasers, first at the Rio Test Event in July (7th place) and then following it up at the Worlds.
- Annie Haeger & Briana Provancha, 7th in 470 women. In a short time, Annie ad Bri have established themselves at the top of the international Women’s 470 fleet. Though they just missed a medal in Santander, they demonstrated large improvement in a year’s time.
- Caleb Paine, 7th in Finn. Caleb would follow up this peak result by winning a bronze medal at the Sailing World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi last month.
- Erika Reineke, 14th in Laser Radial. Erika followed up her 6th in Rio Test Event with a strong performance in Santander, sailing at the top of the fleet despite being much younger than most players. She and teammate Paige Railey (did not compete in Santander due to injury) are both world class in the Radial.
There is much work to be done in order to achieve our performance goals in Rio 2016. But the team’s performance in Santander, which happened at the midpoint of the Rio 2016 quad, showed how attainable success in Rio is for these athletes. We believe in them and the talent they displayed under pressure at the Worlds. The heat only rises from now until the Games, and we like the makeup of this team.
Our team’s Paralympic athletes also had strong performances at the 2014 IFDS World Championships in Halifax, Nova Scotia, qualifying USA for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in two of the three classes (SKUD 18 and 2.4 Meter). John Ruf’s 6th in the 2.4 Meter and Ryan Porteous/Cindy Walker’s 5th in the SKUD 18 were the US Sailing Team’s lead performances at the IFDS Worlds. The US is strong in all three classes; look for the team to be training and racing in force this winter at ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami.
From the early days of the team’s Rio 2016 campaign, it has been a focus of ours to insure our athletes are prepared for the Games venue. As a team, we have made a full commitment to our training on the Rio racecourses. Our athletes are supported in Rio with a training base in Niteroi, across Guanabara Bay from the city, where we store a new fleet of Olympic class boats, owned by US Sailing and funded by a loyal supporter of the team. Having the venue and the boats allows US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider athletes and coaches to maximize time on the water in Rio. In fact, on any given week from mid-October to present, a US athlete was training in Rio. With every training camp in Rio, we are feeling more and more comfortable with the Games racecourses. It’s a tricky venue, one where our team loves to sail and where experience is rewarded.
The Year Ahead
In 2015, our team will head off in many different directions, depending on individual athlete and class schedules. As a follower of the team, thank you for your support and I encourage you to keep an eye out for these highlights in the year ahead:
- ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami. We expect more than 800 competitors from 61+ countries. Our own event will be one of the largest and most competitive Olympic & Paralympic regattas of the year.,
- Pan American Games. The Pan Am Games are in Toronto in July. We’re sending our very best from he US Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider.
- Rio Test Event. Each country sends one competitor per class, a dress rehearsal for the Games. Racing is held on the Games racecourses. We aim to perform here.
- IFDS Worlds in Melbourne, Australia. Many of our team’s Paralympic athletes will head Down Under for the next Worlds.
The US Sailing Team’s campaign for Rio 2016 is made possible by dedicated and loyal supporters—sponsors, donors, partners, and fans. We are grateful for your support. Sail fast in 2015!
– Josh Adams