From the 400 athletes and 62 nations competing at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition, eight are recipients of the prestigious ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards.
Three of the eight have won the Award twice; Ben AINSLIE
(GBR) in 1998 and 2002, Robert SCHEIDT
(BRA) in 2001 and 2004 and Sofia BEKATOROU
(GRE) in 2002 and 2004.
AINSLIE has reached the cult status of tennis star Roger FEDERER in China and fans are eagerly trying to meet the double gold and silver medallist who is aiming to win a second gold medal in the Finn class.
The British sailor won two Laser Olympic medals - silver at the Atlanta 1996 Games and gold at Sydney 2000, in which he dealt with silver medallist SCHEIDT in spectacular fashion and had spectators holding their breath.
Looking for a new challenge, AINSLIE turned to the Finn Men's Heavyweight Dinghy class in which he has won an unmatched five Gold Cups (the World Championship of the class), and the gold medal in Athens; just a few of his many titles.
Robert SCHEIDT, AINSLIE's nemesis in the Laser, won a record eight Laser World Championships from 1995 up to and including 2005; an ISAF Worlds and, like AINSLIE, has two Olympic gold medals (1996 and 2004) and one silver (2000) Laser medal amongst his many accolades.
"I was undefeated at 10 major Laser regattas, so I had a lot of pressure going into the Olympics. Winning the Award both times was very special,"
says SCHEIDT, who has since moved to the Star Keelboat class and is once again in the hunt for gold with crewmate Bruno PRADA
Greek sailor Sofia BEKATOROU won the distinguished Award in 2002 and 2004 for her prowess as a skipper in the Women's Two Person Dinghy 470.
Her first Award came amid a string of 12 unbroken victories, including the World and European Championships, an ISAF Sailing Worlds and five ISAF Grade 1 events.
Major victories that helped her win her second Award include the ISAF Sailing Worlds and Princess Sofia Trophy, culminating in BEKATOROU taking gold on home waters at the 2004 Athens Games.
She switched to the Yngling Women's keelboat in 2006. With her crew Virginia KRAVARIOTI
and Sofia PAPADOPOULOU
, they are hoping for a medal finish.
In 2005, Spanish sailors Fernando ECHAVARRI
and Anton PAZ
won the ISAF Award for their efforts in the Tornado multihull class.
ECHAVARRI, the World Ranked #2 skipper says: "I think winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games is the greatest accomplishment in an athlete's career, but winning the World Sailor of the Year  was great. I was very excited."
He and PAZ feel the importance of medalling in Qingdao, as there will be no Tornado event at the 2012 Games.
(NOR) was awarded the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award in 2003, in recognition of her outstanding talent in the Europe dinghy, which made its exit as equipment from the Women's One Person Dinghy Olympic event in the Athens Games.
The Norwegian sailor won the silver medal at the Europe World Championship in 2003. She followed up with five major championship victories including the Europe Worlds and did not fall below a third place in any regatta during the year.
In 2004, SUNDBY remarkably won every single Europe event, including the Worlds and gold at the 2004 Athens Games after placing 19th at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
"In many ways, winning the ISAF Award was a surprise,"
she said, adding modestly: "There just did not seem to be a lot of competition that year."
"It was quite an honour and the most significant award ever presented to me. My Olympic medal came after having won the Award - and at that point I was undefeated for 15 months."
At the Beijing 2008 Games SUNDBY will skipper the Women's Yngling keelboat, crewed by Lise Birgitte FREDRIKSEN
and Alexandra KOEFOED
"Winning a medal at these Olympics may be the most special achievement in my career,"
(BEL) was awarded ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Award in 1998 and according to her: "The ISAF Award is the most prestigious award any sailor can win. I would love to add an Olympic medal to that now."
BROUWER will make Olympic history as the first female skipper of the Tornado multihull. She is representing Belgium with crewmate Sebastien GODEFROID
. Born in the Netherlands, BROUWER has moved around and speaks six languages.
Polish sailor Mateusz KUSZNIEREWICZ
won his Award in 1999 for his superior results in the Finn Heavyweight Dinghy event, including triumphs at the 1998 Finn Gold Cup, which he won again in 2000 (he finished second in 1999 and 2001), and the Princess Sofia, Hyeres, SPA and Keil Week regattas, amongst others. He subsequently won a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
"Getting that Award is different. It's the biggest Award I have received so far. It's something the people decided, so it is out of my control. I was very happy to receive it, but cannot compare it to the feeling of winning a World Championship, which is in my control,"
the Polish sailor said.
Like Robert SCHEIDT, KUSZNIEREWICZ is now sailing a Star. Ranked #1 in the world, he and crew Dominik ZYCKI
are well on track for gold after winning the Star Worlds recently.