Nick SCANDONE and Maureen MCKINNON-TUCKER of the USA clinched the first gold medal of the 2008 Paralympic Sailing Competition in the SKUD18 event after another dominant performance in today's races.
The American pair of Nick SCANDONE
and Maureen MCKINNON-TUCKER
have the gold medal wrapped up with two races of the Two-Person Keelboat - SKUD18 event still to go thanks to their incredible consistency through the week. With two races remaining and each team able to exclude two race scores, the worst points total they can record is 12 points, making it impossible for second-place John MCROBERTS
and Stacie LOUTTIT
of Canada to overhaul them.
SCANDONE and MCKINNON-TUCKER proved unstoppable again today with two more race wins cementing them in the gold medal position. They have five victories from the eight races sailed so far with three other top-three finishes. The pair plan to race tomorrow, the last day of the regatta, even though they have already secured the gold medals.
"It's almost hard to believe,"
said SCANDONE, incredulously. "I won't feel like it's real until the gold medal is placed around my neck."
"I feel exhausted, very satisfied and somewhat overwhelmed all at the same time,"
SCANDONE added. "It's been such a long road to get here," he said. "It's emotionally overwhelming for me to finally realize my goal."
For SCANDONE, this gold medal is everything he has dreamed of and worked hard to achieve. As his condition progressed from ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, it became increasingly more difficult to train and compete. There were days filled with doubt, but he met each obstacle with the same strength and determination he had as a young, able-bodied sailor. "This is something I've strived for since I was 20 years old, when I was trying to go for gold in the 470 class. Now, to reach that goal," he said, "it's hard to describe in words."
Mary-Kate SCANDONE has supported her husband every step of his Olympic and Paralympic journey, through the accomplishments and the adversity and through the enthusiasm and exhaustion. "I have seen struggles behind the scenes that were so tremendous to overcome,"
she said. "It was so hard to just get here. There were many times Nick doubted he was going to make it to China."
"I feel so much joy that he has achieved this goal,"
she added. "Now it's time to go home and rest."
This is a bittersweet moment for the couple. "It's everything we've been fighting for,"
said Mary-Kate. "Sailing and his [Paralympic] goal has kept him alive."
In an emotional moment, Mary-Kate thanked the designer of Nick's boat "because he gave me four more years with my husband,"
Nick SCANDONE credits a team of people who have assisted him in reaching his Paralympic goals. "This gold medal is not only for me and Maureen,"
he said. "It's for all the other people who have helped me along the way, from my yacht club to family and friends who have supported me throughout my venture."
Behind the American pair it looks set to be a very close fight between the Canadians MCROBERTS and LOUTTIT and the Australian team of Dan FITZGIBBON
and Rachael COX
for the silver medal. Both had mixed fortunes in today's two races with the Canadians initially seizing the advantage with a second to the Aussies' ninth in race seven. However, FITZGIBBON and COX fought back with a third in race eight, whilst MCROBERTS and LOUTTIT dropped to eight. These leaves the Canadians second overall on 18 points, one ahead of the Aussies. In fourth place overall on 34 points, Britain's Alexandra RICKHAM
and Niki BIRRELL
have a lot of ground to make up if they are to challenge for a medal.
The final two races of the SKUD18 series are scheduled for tomorrow.
Results - click here
ISAF Paralympic Games microsite - www.sailing.org/paralympics