Following the conclusion of the final Olympic Qualification Regatta for 2004 at the end of last month, a grand total of 54 nations qualified for entries across the eleven events, including Greece as the host nation.
ISAF is now progressing with the confirmation and allocation of these qualification places to individual athletes who will proudly represent their nation at the pinnacle sailing regatta in the world. Whilst 54 countries had qualified, it is up to the National Olympic Committee in each country to decide whether or not to actually enter an athlete for an event in the Olympic Sailing Competition. As a first step, the ISAF Member National Authority may apply a performance criteria, and in turn some National Olympic Committees may act on the recommendation of the respective ISAF Member National Authority, whilst others will set further criteria which may apply across all sports. For example, it may be that the athlete must be ranked within the top 10 in the world or finish in a certain place at the last World Championships. Many countries have also undertaken their own selection trials, either based on a specific event or based on athlete's results across a series of events.
As a result, with the qualification places confirmed by ISAF after the final Olympic Qualification Regattas, some countries have now confirmed that they will not be using their qualification slots.
The Olympic Sailing Competition Qualification System allows for the reallocation of unused qualification slots, based on "invitation place" requests. In considering requests, as decided at the 2004 ISAF Mid-Year meeting in San Diego (USA), the priority for the reallocation of places has been given to the single-handed events where a country has no other entry at the Olympic Sailing Competition, and in addition the performance of the individual athlete's will be considered.
ISAF is now delighted to announce that the following athletes have been offered invitational places to the Olympic Sailing Competition of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens:
(BRN) - Single-handed Dinghy Open - Laser
Giersson HAFSTEINN (ISL) - Single-handed Dinghy Open - Laser
(PER) - Single-handed Dinghy Open - Laser
Tim PITTS (ISV) - Single-handed Dinghy Open - Laser
Imre TAVETER (EST) - Single-handed dinghy Men - Finn
Sami KOOHEJI (BRN) recently made history and earned a performance certificate from the World Sailing Speed Record Council for sailing round Bahrain, single-handed, assisted, in a little over 27 hours in March 2004.
Situated in the south-western corner of the Persian Gulf, between the coasts of Saudi Arabia and the State of Quatar, Bahrain is an archipelago of 36 islands with a total land area of 706 sq. km. Sami undertook the challenge to sail round the kingdom in aid of The Palm Association, raising funds for local people in need. Aside apart from charitable work, Sami was victorious in the 2003 Sail the Gulf Regatta held in Doha, Qatar.
Geirsson HAFSTEINN (ISL) will be 24 by the time of the Opening Ceremony in Athens, but made his first Olympic appearance at the tender age of 20 at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney competing in the same event. Most recently he has competed at both the Laser World Championship in Bodrum, Turkey and the ISAF Grade 1 Semaine Olympique Francaise in Hyeres, building up valuable training and ranking points in his preparation for Athens.
Augusto NICOLINI (PER) started sailing at the age of eight in an Optimist off the coast of Lima in his native Peru. Rapidly moving up the traditional programme into the Laser, the 21 year old is ranked 183 on the ISAF World Sailing Rankings for the class, and looks to be a hot prospect for the future.
Finishing 20 at the 2003 Brazilian Laser Championships and sailing alongside multiple World Champion Robert SCHEIDT (BRA) has helped this young sailor not only in his own competitive sailing, but in his coaching activities at his local club in Lima. In 2002 Augusto was supported by the ISAF Athlete Participation Programme during his participation in the 2002 ISAF World Sailing Games in Marseille, France, where he finished mid-fleet.
Tim PITTS (ISV) will be making his nation's first appearance in the Laser fleet, since the class' inauguration at the 1996 Olympic Games. His most recent results include a 20 at the ISAF Grade 1 Laser USAF Midwinters in February 2004. One of three Laser sailors from the US Virgin Islands, Tim has showed the most significant improvement over the past twelve months, rising 347 ranking places from May 2003 to date.
Imre TAVETER (EST) is one of three Estonian sailors campaigning the men's single-handed dinghy event - Finn. Now aged 37, Imre achieved his highest position of 61 on the ISAF World Rankings about two years ago, and most recently has competed at the Finn European Championship in Bodrum, Turkey placing 41. 2004 will mark Imre's second appearance at the Olympic Games, having previously competed at the 2000 Olympic Games where he finished 22.
In March 2004, ISAF effectively issued the first wild cards by allocating an additional qualification slot to each of the double-handed dinghy women, double-handed dinghy open, multihull open, keelboat women and keelboat men events.
In addition to the five invitation places detailed above, additional places will be allocated within the coming two weeks as ISAF receives further confirmation on the use of qualification places.