Many of those nations who have already qualified, and who have yet to select their respective athletes, will be using this event to finalize Mistral representatives to join their Olympic team, whilst those who've yet to qualify will be pushing themselves hard in a last opportunity to gain a place. Then, of course, there is the enviable title of World Champion up-for-grabs, and defending champions Przemek MIARCZYNSKI (POL) in the men, and Lee KORSITZ (ISR) in the women, will be fighting to retain the titles they won just over six months ago at the 2003 ISAF World Championship in Cadiz, Spain.
Currently there are 27 nations qualified in the men's event and 22 qualified in the women's event for the 2004 Olympic Sailing Competition. After the World Championship there will be a total of 33 in the men's and 27 in the women's fleet, who after the 2004 Worlds will in the final stages of preparation for Olympic Games, the first race of which will be held on the Saronic Gulf on 15 August.
Looking back at Sydney 2000, all three of the medallists in the Women's fleet are in Turkey: Alessandra SENSINI (ITA), Amelie LUX (GER) and Barbara KENDALL (NZL) have all qualified their nations for the Olympics. Both Germany and Italy qualified as a result of their results in Cadiz in 2003, whilst Barbara KENDALL qualified New Zealand at the first opportunity, when she won the 2002 World Championship in Pattaya, Thailand.
Gabriella HADJIDAMIANOU (CYP), is currently one of the highest placed sailors in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings who has yet to qualify her nation in the Windsurfing event, and will be looking at the World Championship to build experience, and to gain an entry to the Games, joining Cyprus' men's representative in the Mistral fleet.
Currently Qualified Nations in the Women's Fleet are as follows:
In the men's fleet, the 2002 World Champion Gal FRIDMAN(ISR), as well as the defending champion Przemek MIARCZYNSKI (POL), is in Turkey, but with none of the Sydney 2000 medallists sailing in the fleet, the build up to Athens is all the more tense as no one sailor is dominating.
Greek hero Nikos KAKLAMANAKIS will be looking to regain the title he held in 2001, whilst Olympic qualification places are available for all but three of the current unqualified nations.
Turkey is represented strongly in the men's fleet, especially by Ertugrul YCINGIR , ranked 26 in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, who qualified the nation at the 2003 ISAF World Championship in Cadiz. As well as the draw of the World Championship on home turf, he will be using the event to measure up against future competition.
By this stage before the Olympic Games in Sydney, 22 nations had qualified for a possible 34 slots; Fiji, Sweden and Austria had all qualified at this point, and have yet to qualify for Athens. Many of the nations who qualified at the last qualification regatta leading up to Sydney, including Turkey, Hong Kong and Venezuela, have been a little more certain this time around, qualifying one stage earlier.
Currently Qualified Nations in the Men's fleet are as follows:
The event starts with measurement on 8 April, the practice race and Opening Ceremony are on 10 April with racing proper running from 11-17 April. As always, ISAF will bring you the latest news.