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13 July 2008, 12:00 pm
Århus Hosts Global Gathering At The Youth Worlds
Maja KNEZEVIC
Maja KNEZEVIC, the first Serbian sailor to compete at the Youth Worlds

Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship 2008
Århus, Denmark

The 2008 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship brings together over 240 young sailors from 58 nations in Århus, Denmark resulting in many colourful contrasts, reflecting the international flavour of the event.
The global growth of the Youth Worlds, amplified by the introduction of the ISAF Athlete Participation Programme five years ago, make it one of the most international events on the sailing calendar. This year sailors have come from 58 nations to compete in Århus and whilst all of them share the same passion for sailing, the variety of backgrounds, cultures, attitudes and aims makes for a truly global spirit at the event.

Laura LINARES (ITA) and Maja KNEZEVIC (SRB) are a perfect example of two contrasting figures competing at this year's event. LINARES, from Italy, is competing in her fifth and final Youth Worlds and is already a four-time medallist and two-time winner of the Girl's Windsurfer - RS:X event. Meanwhile KNEZEVIC, competing in the Girl's One Person Dinghy - Laser Radial event, is not only at the Youth Worlds for the first time, she is also the first ever representative from her country Serbia, to compete at the Championship.

"I feel prepared and ready for my last competition," said LINARES this morning before the opening races began. "For my last ISAF event I want to do a fantastic result."

LINARES, from Marsala in Sicily, has been sailing since she was six years old, windsurfing since nine and part of the Italian Olympic team since 16. Last night she received a good luck message from another Youth Worlds medallist Alessandra SENSINI (ITA), who is now also a four-time windsurfing World Champion and a triple Olympic medallist.

LINARES first competed at the 2004 Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship in Poland, winning a bronze medal. The following year in Korea she led going into the final day, only to lose out in a close final race and drop to third overall, winning a second bronze medal. Buoyed by her near miss, she took the title in Weymouth the following year and in the process led the Italian team as they became only the fifth nation to win the Volvo Trophy. Her second Youth Worlds title followed in Kingston last year and in Århus she is aiming to become the Youth Worlds' first five-time medallist.

"It's a really great competition to help improve yourself," says LINARES of her experiences over the past four years. "Also you can see how other nations and other teams prepare. It's really good training and well organized. It's like a mini Olympic Games for youth. I love this competition - every year I say it!"

LINARES's love affair of the event appears set to continue. She scored bullets in both of Saturday's races to take the overall lead and put down the marker for the rest of the fleet. In contrast, KNEZEVIC's first day of racing did not go quite so smoothly. The heavy winds, choppy seas and frequent rain showers made for very testing conditions and with finishes of 33rd and 34th, she lies 32nd overall in the 40-boat Laser Radial fleet.

KNEZEVIC is one of 29 competitors at this event on ISAF's Athlete Participation Programme, which assists sailors from developing sailing nations to attend the Youth Worlds by subsidising entry fees and travel costs. After encouragement from her father she started out in the Optimist class at eight year old and now, aged 17, is competing in one of the toughest Laser Radial fleets ever assembled at the Youth Worlds. In itself this competition provides a unique training ground, and the addition of daily meetings and video debriefs from world-renowned coach Jim SALTONSTALL makes the event an unmatched learning experience for any young sailor.

"It's great," KNEZEVIC says of her attendance at this year's Championship. "I'll do my best and I hope to get a good result and that my country will be happy!"

Mrinalini SANTHANAM of India is another APP sailor competing in the Laser Radial fleet. Like KNEZEVIC she had a difficult opening day but refused to be downcast. "It was tough. I'm from a hot country, it was really cold waters here so it was really tough," she explained after Saturday's racing. The Youth Worlds is the first international regatta SANTHANAM has ever attended and so far she's been impressed. "It's amazing. You get to people from all around the world. It's a different experience, it really opens your mind," she said.

The contrasting experiences of LINARES, KNEZEVIC and SANTHANAM demonstrate some of the many different facets of the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship. First and foremost the Championship represents the pinnacle of youth sailing and is a great celebration of and showcase for the world's most talented young sailors. As a global gathering, it brings nations together and creates new friendships. It's also a fantastic education and learning experience - a chance to pick up tips and get first hand advice from fellow sailors, International Race Officials as well as some of the world's leading coaches.

The Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship showcases the spirit of the international sailing world and is truly an event to celebrate, inspire, education and enjoy!

Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship microsite - www.sailing.org/youthworlds
ISAF Athlete Participation Programme - www.sailing.org/app
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