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1 September 2008, 07:30 am
Israel and Singapore Win Laser 4.7 World Titles
The Laser 4.7 fleet in action in Croatia
The Laser 4.7 fleet in action in Croatia

Laser 4.7 World Championships 2008
Trogir, Croatia

Shahar JACOB of Israel and Singapore's Elizabeth YIN took the titles at the Laser 4.7 World Championships in Trogir, Croatia.
It is difficult to find the right superlatives to describe Israel's Shahar JACOB's stunning performance in this year's championships here in Trogir. Some of his competitors are bigger and more muscular but he is clearly stronger. Some are lightning quick about the boat but he is faster. Some are tactically intelligent but he somehow seems to be yet cleverer. In 12 successive races he proved to his fellow competitors and to those of us who were watching him in admiration that this is a young man with the brightest of futures as a competitive sailor. His crown as male World Champion for Laser 4.7 in 2008 is thoroughly deserved.

How interesting it will be in four year's time to read through the lists of Olympic competitors and hunt down the names of those who have just competed here in Trogir. I have little doubt that JACOB's name will be there, as will that of Scott SYDNEY from Singapore. SYDNEY has a way of using his power and height to ride the wind with real elegance and his runner-up placing in this year's championships surely marks him out as a great medal prospect for London in 2012. Bravo to him and bravo again to the enlightened government of Singapore for their far-sighted support to promising young athletes.

I have to admit to some stirrings of patriotic pride. Croatian competitors have performed exceptionally well in this year's competition. When you look at Lovre PERHAT walking down the street you see a bright, outgoing, sociable and relaxed young man. When you see him in action on the water, his face set in rock-hard concentration, you see another side to him - absolutely determined, hungry for top placings, completely focused, ruthlessly competitive and not to be distracted. His third place overall in this year's World Championships, as well as a hard-won and thoroughly deserved fourth place from his compatriot Toma VIŠI?, augurs well for Croatia's future medal prospects and we shall watch the development of these two promising prospects over the next few years with much interest.

My patriotism is fed further by the performance of the Croatian competitors in the girls competition. Antea KORDIC and Matea SENKIC, who came third and second respectively, demonstrated without doubt that Croatia has the potential for world-beating performances in future women's international events. Third and second in a World Championships of this size and against this kind of competition is an outstanding result for the girls themselves and for Croatian sport in general. These exceptional girls now need to be encouraged and funded to develop their obvious potential and take their rightful places on the world stage. For whatever reason - whether it be the long tradition in Croatia of sailing success or society's approval of sailing as an attractive and suitable sport for young people (or maybe it's just the weather…) - young Croatian sailors are showing that this country has potential world-beaters if they are given the right support.

There are lessons to be learned from Singapore, one suspects. What better example exists of the success of a government-sponsored development programme than the exceptionally talented and skilful Elizabeth YIN? Identified as a future prospect whilst still very young, given the facilities and training to develop her abilities and now - World Champion in Laser 4.7 at the age of 17. A magnificent success story and a performance to be proud of. Many congratulations to YIN herself and to her coaches and supporters.

The closing ceremony managed both to be a slightly sad occasion - with so many friends wishing each other goodbye until the next time and a sense that the party was nearly over - and an exuberant and sometimes somewhat raucous celebration of youthful high spirits and patriotism. Flags waved, klaxons sounded, cameras flashed and cheers rang out as the award winners climbed to the stage and were presented with their prizes.

Mihovil DEKARIS, President of the Trogir Sailing Club, together with distinguished guests including Mayor Vedran RO?I?, sailing legends Josip GEIC, Milovan DOMJAN and Vasilij ZBOGAR (bronze medallist in Athens 2004 and silver medallist in Qingdao a few days ago) presented the awards to the competitions outstanding winners. In a touching part to the ceremony disabled sailing legend Sutjesko RO?I? handed over the competition flag to a representative of the next championship host Bruno MARKS from Buzios, near Rio in Brazil, accompanied by the beautiful voice of AnaMarija KUROLT singing I am Sailing.

What a week this has been… Six or seven hundred people representing 43 countries have worked, played and competed together in harmony. What better illustration could there be of the power of sport in promoting mutual understanding and respect between people of different nations, religions and cultures?

Lastly, and I hope competitors agree, I think Trogir and its citizens have risen to the occasion and done a good job. As Jeff MARTIN, Executive Secretary of the ICLA, pointed out - this is one of the largest and most complex sailing competitions in the world. The hundreds, if not thousands of hours of hard work put in by the organizers and their teams of volunteers have paid off. It's now time to browse through the photo gallery, remember the exciting young people we have met and whose company we have enjoyed and look forward to the excitement of future events.

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Mejrema Reuter
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