British crew Iain PERCY and Andrew SIMPSON won the final gold medal of the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition after a thrilling finish to Thursday's Star Medal Race.
adds Star success to the gold medal he won in the single-handed Finn dinghy in Sydney eight years ago, whilst Andrew SIMPSON
wins gold in his first appearance at the Games. Brazilians Robert SCHEIDT
and Bruno PRADA
(BRA) won the silver medal with the Swedish crew of Fredrik LOOF
and Anders EKSTROM
, who held the overall lead going into the Medal Race, taking bronze.
"This win is far more sweet than the gold in the Finn,"
said PERCY. "Six months ago, we knew we could do. It's just that there was so much work involved and there are so many talents in the class. We always knew we were contenders, but only contenders. Every morning we wake up thinking about sailing and nothing else."
The Star Medal Race was perfectly poised with just two points separating the leading Swedish and British crews and SCHEIDT and PRADA third overall, 14 points back and ready to pounce on any mistakes. With these six crews sharing three gold, one silver and one bronze medal between them, it was a genuine battle of the heavyweights.
A southeasterly on 12 knots and big seas set the scene for a thrilling race. PERCY and SIMPSON just had to beat LOOF and EKSTROM and immediately put the pressure on their rivals. After a bout of pre-start manoeuvring, the Brits had the Swedes pinned outside the Committee boat and gained an advantage off the start, but LOOF and EKSTROM fought back strongly up the right of the first beat, rounding the top mark just ahead of the Brits. Meanwhile SCHEIDT and PRADA had got off to a flier at the pin end and pulled out an early lead. Sweden and Britain never strayed far from one another during the battle downwind, with LOOF and EKSTROM initially appearing to hold the advantage. However, PERCY and SIMPSON caught a good puff to surge ahead and rounded mark two in second with the Swedes and France's ROHART and RAMBEAU just a few seconds further back.
On the second upwind Britain held the advantage over Sweden but these two teams appeared isolated on the left of the course, whilst the rest of the fleet made gains on the right. Could SCHEIDT and PRADA sneak in? If they won and PERCY and SIMPSON finished seventh and LOOF and EKSTROM eighth, gold would go to Brazil.
Halfway through, the race appeared wide open. "Everything was changing. Boat places were switched rapidly and we went from left to right. We just had to keep our eyes on the main guys and just fight, fight and fight,"
At this stage World Champions Mateusz KUSZNIEREWICZ
and Dominik ZYCKI
(POL) came into the frame, making big gains on the right of the course along with Flavio MARAZZI
and Enrico DE MARIA
(SUI) . They led into the final run with SCHEIDT and PRADA now down in fifth, PERCY and SIMPSON in seventh whilst the Swedes had dropped to last. The Brazilians and Brits again showed their speed downwind and both made up places on the run, whilst the Swedes continued to struggle at the back. At the front KUSZNIEREWICZ and ZYCKI took the bullet followed by the Swiss, SCHEIDT and PRADA pulled back two places to come in third, with Marc PICKEL
and Ingo BORKOWSKI
(GER) fourth and then the new Olympic Champions PERCY and SIMPSON in fifth.
"At first tears burst into my eyes. I was just so shocked. After so many years of hardship, to achieve this, here with your best friend is the best feeling in the world,"
LOOF and EKSTROM battled with ROHART and RAMBEAU down the final run but the French just held off their challenge, finishing one second ahead of the Swedes to give the silver medal to Brazil.
Overall Results - click here