With just over two months to go until the Opening Ceremony of the 2004 Paralympic Games, IFDS has today published the provisional entry list for the athletes competing in the 2004 Paralympic Sailing Competition.
73 athletes from 19 nations will be stepping up their training as they prepare for the pinnacle event in the disabled sailing calendar. Sixteen 2.4mR sailors and fifteen Sonar crews will congregate at the Agios Kosmas Sailing Centre when the venue opens for business on 10 September. After six days of registration and measurement the sailors will take to the water for a practice race on 16 September, before the 2004 Paralympic Sailing Competition starts on Saturday 18.
The entry list is an impressive one. No less than 26 of the athletes competed in Sydney in 2000 and medallists from both events will be returning to defend their titles. There follows an overview of each event.
Single-person keelboat open - 2.4mR
The sixteen sailors who will take to the start line in the single-person keelboat open event in the 2.4mR include all three medallists from Sydney, and all three medallists from the IFDS World Disabled Sailing Championships in 2003, 2002 and 2001. An impressive list of sailors who will be battling it out again for the coveted gold medal. The big question is can anyone wrestle German legend Heiko KROEGER from his grip on the gold? Kroeger is the big name in 2.4mR sailing. He has won the IFDS World Disabled Sailing Championship every year since 1998, except 2000 when the event did not take place because of the Paralympics, which he won as well. Kroeger is also a force to be reckoned with on the open circuit and took the gold against a strong fleet of able-bodied and disabled contenders at the 2.4mR world championship in 2001.
So who can beat Kroeger? Well, despite Kroeger's impressive form the rest of the fleet is not to be sniffed at. The 2000 silver medallist Jens Als ANDERSEN (DEN) will no doubt be hoping to go one better in Athens and likewise Thomas BROWN (USA) who won the bronze in Syndey will be out to do battle. One of the youngest competitors in the fleet is Damien SEGUIN from France whose results over the last few years indicate that he too will give Kroeger a run for his money. With silver at the IFDS Worlds in 2003 and 2002 and at the open worlds in 2003, Seguin is the one to watch in Athens.
The youngest competitor in the fleet is Norway's Bjørnar ERIKSTAD. At 23 years of age, he has displayed consistently good results over the last few years. There will be just one woman on the 2.4mR start line and that is the representative from Singapore Kok Liang LIM. Not much is known about this sailor but who knows what she might pull out the bag?
Three-person keelboat open - Sonar
57 sailors will be representing 15 nations in the three-person keelboat event using the Sonar in Athens. Like the 2.4mR the three medal winning teams from Sydney will again be represented in Athens. The total of 57 athletes is made up of the fifteen 3 person crews, plus 12 of the entries will be sending an alternate (in the case of illness/injury), for a total of 57.
The gold medal in Sydney went to the Australian team, skippered by Jamie DUNROSS. Dunross returns to the 2004 Paralympic Sailing Competitoin with two different crew members, Colin HARRISON and Jeff MILLIGAN. Also on the hunt for another medal will be the German team skippered by Jens KROKER. Kroker took the silver medal in 2000 and returns with crew member Hans-Peter REICHL. The Germans will also be sending Ludger GROTE and Olaf JACOBS but have yet to confirm which will be the alternate and which the third crew member. The Canadians took the bronze in Sydney and all three members of that medal winning team will be competing in Athens. David WILLIAMS skippered the team in 2000 and his crew of David MACDONALD and Paul TINGLEY will be joined by Brian MACKIE. The Canadians have yet to confirm who will compete as the primary crew at this stage but they are certainly another medal contender.
The 2003 IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championship gold medallists were the Dutch team of Udo HESSELS, Mischa ROSSEN and Marcel VAN DE VEEN. Hessels and Rossen also finished sixth in Sydney and will seeking the podium this time round. The fourth team member is Annette TEN DAM, one of only five women in the Sonar fleet, and it is yet to be confirmed which of the four athletes will be the primary team in Athens.
Other teams whose recent form suggests they may be inline for a medal are the Swedish, the Israelis and the British. Two of the Swedish team competed in Sydney, but finished just outside the medals in fourth. Sweden will be sending the youngest competitor in the fleet, Aron ANDERSON, who will be just sixteen years of age when the Games get underway. The Israelis are fielding their team who took the silver at the 2003 IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championship one of whom finished eighth in Sydney. The fourth team member also competed in Sydney and while they are yet to confirm who will be the alternate, they will be another strong contender for a medal. The British are sending an entirely new team to that which competed in Athens. John ROBERTSON, Stephen THOMAS and Hannah STODEL took the bronze at the IFDS Worlds in 2003 and will be joined by alternate Helena LUCAS. Lucas narrowly missed out on the British slot in the 2.4mR, after switching to the class from her Olympic 470 campaign last year.
It is shaping up to be an exciting competition and the medals could go any one of several ways in both events. The entry lists are available on the ISAF Paralympic Games Microsite and will be updated further as the teams are finalised.