Following the end of the 2004 Laser World Championship in which Robert SCHEIDT (BRA) won a record breaking seventh title, the nation qualification for Athens 2004 is now complete.
Those nations lucky enough to have entries will be required to confirm their participation at the 2004 Olympic Sailing Competition.
The culmination of the Laser World Championship led to three new nations qualifying for an entry to Athens in August in the Single-Handed Dinghy Open event, along with a further five nations adding to their presence at the Games. Singapore, Uruguay and Malaysia were the three new nations qualifying for Athens.
At the moment, based on qualification regattas, 54 nations, including Greece as the hosts, have gained an entry to the Olympic Sailing Competition. National team selection has been taking place and continues to do so and as some athletes may not meet their own national criteria for attending the Olympic Games, some entries will be reallocated - a move that will no doubt see the number of nations represented in Athens rise.
The biggest fleets in Athens will be the Windsurfer Men and the Single-Handed Dinghy Open events, represented by the Mistral and Laser respectively. Both fleets are perfect for some of the smaller nations to compete and excel on a level playing field with the more "cash-rich" nations, as the Laser equipment is strictly one-design and supplied by the Organizing Committee (ATHOC). In addition, it makes the logistics of getting sailors to the competition much easier.
There are 13 nations who will currently only be represented by one athlete in Athens. As well as Singapore, Malaysia and Uruguay; China, Lithuania, South Africa and the Seychelles are all represented in the Single-Handed Dinghy Men, whilst Indonesia, Latvia, Slovakia, Thailand and Venezuela are represented in the Windsurfer Men or Women. Congratulations must be extended to all these nations in qualifying for Athens.
Congratulations also to the nations sending representatives to Athens in every event. As well as Greece who as host nation automatically receives an entry in each event, Australia, Spain, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy and USA will all have a full Olympic team in Greece. The first nations to achieve this feat were Australia and Great Britain, whose sailors completed their eleven event line-up at the ISAF World Championships in Cadiz last year.
Every nation that won medals at Sydney 2000 will be represented in Athens, with all except one nation ready to defend their medals in the specific event. Ruslana TARAN
(UKR), bronze medallist in the Double-Handed Dinghy Women in Sydney with Olena PAKHOLCHIK, has moved into the Keelboat Women for her 2004 campaign and has teamed up with Anna KALININA and Svetlana MATEVUSHEVA to try and emulate her feat in 2000. Ukraine has this time around not been able to fill the space left by Ruslana in the Double-Handed Dinghy Women and the nation will not be back to defend their medal.
Other notable movements include the 2000 Single-Handed Dinghy Men - Finn Gold medallist Iain PERCY
(GBR), moving into the Star Class to fight for the Keelboat Men's title. His position has been more than admirably taken up by Ben AINSLIE
(GBR), who remains one of the favourites for a medal in Athens. Freddie LOOF
(SWE) who took the bronze medal, has also transferred from the Finn to the Star.
Another Sydney medallist moving on is Shirley ROBERTSON
(GBR), who after a Gold in the Single-Handed Dinghy Women, will hope to shine in the Keelboat Women - Yngling.
The Multihull Open - Tornado fleet will be keeping a close eye on Carlos ESPINOLA (ARG), who claimed a silver medal in the Windsurfer Men in Sydney and has transferred his expertise to the fastest fleet in the Olympics, teaming up with helm Santiago LANGE.
The qualification table can be seen on ISAF's Athens 2004 microsite by following the link below.