Anna TUNNICLIFFE won the USA's first gold medal of the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition following a magnificent comeback in the Laser Radial Medal Race held today.
At one stage in today's Medal Race Anna TUNNICLIFFE
had fallen back to ninth but she battled back, reading a big shift on the second upwind leg and eventually crossing the finishing line in second place to secure the gold medal. Aged just 25, the world #1 skipper can now add Olympic gold to her list of achievements.
After sailing back along the breakwater at the Qingdao Olympic Sailing Center to cheers of delight from the US supporters, TUNNICLIFFE was elated as she returned to the boatpark. "This is phenomenal. It is absolutely unbelievable. This is my first Olympics and first medal. I've been wanting this for many years. It's a dream come true,"
(LTU) won the Medal Race to take silver. For the first half of the race she had been in a gold medal winning position, but despite coming so close to Olympic victory she was still delighted with her success, not least becoming the first Lithuanian to ever to win a medal in sailing at the Olympic Games, "I'm very proud of myself. I'm also very happy to get the first Olympic sailing medal for my country. I have to say Anna is the strongest. I'm very satisfied with my result. I want to thank my coach. He's been with me for 12 years. Without him I would not be here today,"
The bronze medal went to Lijia XU
of China, the first medal for the host nation in this year's Olympic Sailing Competition. XU, the 2006 World Champion, came third in today's Medal Race to secure herself a place on the Olympic podium.
Today's Medal Race was a race of two halves. Poland's Katarzyna SZOTYNSKA
and World Champion Sarah STEYAERT
of France established a lead on the fleet up the first beat, with VOLUNGEVUCIUTE playing the middle of the course and rounding in third. The Lithuanian had to put three boats between her and TUNNICLIFFE to win gold and today's light and shifty winds, conditions in which she excels, were perfect for her. XU rounded third after keeping a close eye on her bronze medal rival Sarah BLANCK
(AUS), but TUNNICLIFFE was way back in eighth after crossing the line early and having to go back to recross. "I had a really bad start. It was very hard to focus when my competitors were gaining points on me,"
explained the American.
Things went from bad to worse on the downwind leg as TUNNICLIFFE dropped another place to ninth, but on the second upwind the race was turned on its head with a big wind shift. On the right of the course SZOTYNSKA and STEYAERT were left stranded whilst VOLUNGEVUCIUTE moved into the lead. BLANCK, XU and crucially TUNNICLIFFE all read the shift as well with the American making the most of her good judgement with a great upwind leg which brought her from ninth to third at the finally mark. "I saw a big puff at the left side of the course and I said to myself, 'I already have a medal, so why don't I give it a try?' I went to the left and moved to the front of the fleet."
With the wind dropping off slightly on the final run the fleet compressed, but VOLUNGEVUCIUTE held on to win the race and secure her silver medal. TUNNICLIFFE followed her across the line in second to win gold with XU in third securing bronze.
Overall Results - click here