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30 July 2004, 05:38 pm
Olympic Preview: Single-handed Dinghy Women - Europe
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Athens 2004

The 2004 Olympic Sailing Competition will mark the fourth appearance of both the Single-Handed Dinghy Women's event and the Europe as the equipment.
Despite four appearances on the Olympic Programme, there is only one Olympic medallist amongst the ranks of the 25 entries, Sydney's bronze medallist Serena AMATO (ARG).

There is one name that comes to mind when you look at the form in the Europe dinghy. Multiple World Champion and ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year 2003 Siren SUNDBY (NOR) will go to Athens as firm favourite.

Born in 1982, the 21 year old from Oslo is from a deep rooted sailing family and she started sailing in the familiar junior class, the Optimist. After winning the 1996 European Championship in the class and finishing as first girl in the 1997 Optimist World Championship, she graduated to the Europe Class. Shortly afterwards, Siren went to the Olympic Games in Sydney where she finished 19, and only earlier in that same year that she had won the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship in Cape Town.

Dedicated and committed to winning a Gold medal at Athens, since 2000 Siren quickly developed into the fleet leader, and has barely finished outside the top five in any ISAF Graded event since SPA regatta in 2003. She topped the ISAF World Sailing rankings just before the ISAF World Championship in Cadiz last year, going on to win the regatta and state her intentions for the coming Olympic Sailing Competition.

Siren will not have it all her own way though. One characteristic of the Olympic Sailing Competition is the pressure it puts sailors under, lacking the big fleet of a world championship, the racing is tight and competitive and there is little room for error. The Europe traditionally sees athletes building up to medal wins with multiple Olympic Campaigns. This time around is no different with only nine of the 25 entries making their Olympic debut in Athens. All sixteen making a repeat appearance were on the startline in Sydney.

Following Siren in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings is Sari MULTALA (FIN), and the pair have had numerous battles in recent years, although remain firm friends. Sari came out second best at the last two World Championships, but with a solid Olympic performance behind her in the form of a fifth place in Sydney, the former world number one is likely to be one of the best prepared mentally and physically for the conditions an Olympic Sailing Competition throws at athletes.

Although Sydney Gold medallist, Shirley ROBERTSON (GBR) has moved on to the Women's Keelboat, bronze medallist from Sydney, Serena AMATO (ARG) is returning to the Olympic fray for the third time.

Although she missed the World Championship this year and has been conspicuous by her absence both in 2003 and at this year's ISAF Graded events throughout the world, her experience will stand Serena in good stead as she seeks to improve on her eighth in Atlanta in 1996, and third in Sydney.

There are no fewer than four past ISAF Youth Sailing World Champions sailing in Athens in the Europe. As well as Siren SUNDBY, Sarah BLANCK (AUS) won the title in the Laser Radial in 1995, Carolijn BROUWER (NED) in 1991 and Sarah MACKY (NZL) in 1997.

Carolijn BROUWER returns to single-handed sailing after a brief foray into the double-handed world, representing the Netherlands in the 470 in Sydney, where she and Alexandra VERBEEK finished a credible 13 place. Coming back to her roots as a single-handed sailor may well suit her and she could mount a strong medal charge.

Sarah BLANCK (AUS), from Melbourne won the 2002 World Championship in Ontario, Canada, and is ranked eighth in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings. She seemed to have come off the boil a little last year and finished a disappointing 20 at the ISAF World Championship in Cadiz. This year however, she has returned to form and a second place at the ISAF Grade 2 Princess Sofia Trophy and a third at the ISAF Grade 1 Kieler Woche suggest that she will peak at exactly the right time - Athens in August.

Ranked fourth in the world and constantly snapping at the heals of Multala and Sundby, Lenka SMIDOVA (CZE) has often sat in their shadow. She is one of the most experienced sailors in the class and has been on the ISAF World Sailing Rankings since 1994. Athens will be her second Olympic Games and she will be looking to topple the top two for a medal.

Greece's hopes are pinned on the local face of Virginia KRAVARIOTI (GRE). This 20 year old from Athens sails from the Agios Kosmas sailing centre and has been training hard building up to the Olympic Games. Her 12 place at the ISAF Grade 1 SPA regatta this year suggests that with her in-depth local knowledge, Virginia could well cause some upsets amongst the established ranks.

The most experience Olympian in the fleet in terms of earliest Olympics in which she has participated is Min DEZILLIE (BEL), who made her first appearance in 1992 placing 18 - the only sailor in the fleet to have done so. Despite an absence from the 1996 Olympic Games, Min was back on the startline in Sydney where she placed sixth. Currently lying seventeenth in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, Min has demonstrated some good form this year, with a first at Athens Eurolymp and fourth at the Princess Sofia Trophy.

Measurement starts for the Europe class on the fourth of August, the practice race takes place on 14, the day following the opening ceremony and racing takes place from 15-22, at which point the 2004 Olympic medallists will be crowned.
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