The most important regatta in the Olympic classes calendar for 2003, the ISAF World Championship, has concluded, and the results have been entered into the world rankings to present the latest positions on the World Olympic Classes stage.
For many Olympic events this Championship has been the only results included in the rankings calculation, but it's status as the World Championship gives it a heavier weighting than even an ISAF Grade 1 event, and as such there are some expected climbers and expected drops in the rankings since before the Championship.
Having said that, there are also some unexpected movers and shakers. This can be explained by the nature of the two-year rolling cycle, coupled with event weighting and grading points that make the rankings difficult to predict, and increases the anticipation for their release.
Here is an event-by-event report on the movers and shakers following the latest rankings release today.
Windsurfer Men - Mistral
Looking at the movement from the three medallists at the ISAF World Championship last month, there are some interesting conclusions to be drawn.
Pont MIARCZYNSKI (POL) won the World Championship emphatically and this has been enough to improve his position from tenth to sixth. Further climbs seem to be hindered by a poor showing at both last year's World Championship (18) and this year's European championship, where he finished 27. Pont has total dominance in the windier conditions mostly found in Cadiz and by his own admission is trying to improve his all round and in particular light wind technique. These improvements could make him almost impossible to beat in Athens next year.
Second place Nikos KAKLAMANAKIS (GRE), building up to his appearance at the 2004 Olympic Games, had a fantastic regatta in Cadiz, with the silver medal he won, boosting him three places up the rankings. If he continues on present form, the next twelve months should see further gains up the rankings, and towards his ultimate goal in Athens. Nikos' Bronze Medal compatriot, Gal FRIDMAN (ISR), part of a very successful windsurfing team from Israel at the Worlds, has also made a small climb up to fifth place.
The biggest move over the past month into the top twenty has to go to Alexandre GUYADER (FRA), who despite a 32 place finish at the World Championship in Cadiz, now counts seven required events in the calculation and has risen an incredible 12 places into 18, firmly on his way back to the 11 position he held this time last year.
Windsurfer Women - Mistral
Relative newcomer to the sport of Olympic Class windsurfing, World Championship Gold Medallist, and hero in her country as the first Woman to win a World Championship in any sport, Lee KORSITZ (ISR), rattled the old guard in the fleet and as a result has made herself a strong contender for a medal in Athens. She entered the rankings exactly 12 months ago and has steadily improved ever since. In her first World Championship last year she finished 27. 12 months later she scored a memorable victory and now sits within a hair's breadth of the top twenty, only held back by her lack of attendance so far at graded events. Surely one to watch for the future.
Behind her in the Championship finished Faustine MERRETT (FRA) in third place and as a result has moved from 20 up to ninth position, and Barbara KENDALL (NZL), who's Silver Medal, coupled with last year's World Championship victory, sees her return to competition starting strongly. She only counts six events out of the necessary eight to achieve the best possible ranking and at the moment has risen from 40 to 34.
Lise VIDAL (FRA), who finished fourth in Cadiz, retains her top spot in the rankings, with a consistent score in the top few over the last two years.
The next ranking event for both Mistral fleets is the ISAF Grade 2 Sydney International Regatta in December.
Single-handed Dinghy Women - Europe
The Scandinavian battle between Siren SUNDBY (NOR) and Sari MULTALA (FIN) keeps on going. Siren won in Cadiz and as a direct result moves back up into first place in the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, whilst Sari is but a few points behind following her Silver Medal at the Worlds. This titanic battle for the top spot is sure to continue to the end of 2003 and beyond, and the friends are bound to be fighting it out on the water for honours at next year's World Championship and the Olympic Games.
A hard fought and thoroughly deserved Bronze Medal winner in Cadiz, Mary GAILLARD (USA) has improved her standing on the world stage and now teeters on the edge of the top ten, in eleventh place overall.
Teja CERNE (SLO) has jumped into the top 20 in the world after her best World Championship finish of tenth in Cadiz. This is a huge step up for the girl who finished 38 last year and is sure to keep on improving. Teja now resides in 17, behind Min DEZILLE (BEL), who had, for her, a disappointing finish in Cadiz.
The next event for the girls is the ISAF Grade 3 Tzeni Grammalidou Cup in Greece at the end of October.
Single-handed Dinghy Open - Laser
When Gustavo LIMA (POR) denied Robert SCHEIDT (BRA) a record breaking seventh Laser World Championship win at the ISAF World Championship in Cadiz, he also contributed to putting a new number one sailor to the top of the ISAF World Sailing Rankings.
That position has now been taken by the Bronze Medallist in Cadiz, Michael BLACKBURN (AUS), who not only leapfrogged both Paul GOODISON and Robert SCHEIDT (BRA), but nine other athletes on his way to the top of this the event.
Exactly one year ago, Blackburn lay dormant in 342 place in the rankings, his lowest for some time. After his bronze medal in Sydney 2000 he took a break from Laser sailing, and after a little play with the 49er he has returned with a vengeance to the world circuit, and will be a strong contender for a medal in Athens.
The Gold Medallist himself in Cadiz, Gustavo LIMA (POR), has almost done a "Korsitz" on the fleet. Last year he finished 27 in the World Championship and going into Cadiz sat just inside the top twenty in 17 position. Now, with his first World Championship victory he sits in the top ten in the world overall.
Another big mover at the top of the fleet is the entry of Mark MENDELBLATT (USA), who is returning to Laser sailing after a spell in an America's Cup Syndicate. Back on form quickly he is now in the top twenty in the world, having finished first in last year's Rolex Miami OCR and sixth at this year's World Championship.
Double-handed Dinghy Men - 470
A Silver Medal in Cadiz was enough to see Nathan WILMOT and Malcolm PAGE (AUS) return to the top of the rankings after a sojourn of three months. The pair have consistently manage to score highly at graded events and displace previous leaders of the pack, Andreas KOSMATOPOLOUS and Kostas TRIGONIS (GRE), whose ninth place at the worlds proved enough disparity to slip them down to third in the rankings.
In front of them in second, after a four-place rise to their current position, are Phillippe GILDAS and Nicolas LEBERRE (FRA), who have a plethora of top results to include in their rankings. Add to those, their top ten finish in the Worlds, and it was enough to snuffle them into second place in the rankings.
Big movers in the top twenty are new World Champions Gabrio ZANDONA and Andreas TRANI (ITA). Their famous victory pushes them up eight places in the table to seventh overall, indirectly displacing Nick ROGERS and Joe GLANDFIELD (GBR) down to ninth overall.
For Zandona and Trani, it is the highest position they have occupied in the rankings since the current records began and bodes their training and preparation for Athens exceedingly well.
Women's Double-handed Dinghy - 470
Something almost bizarre following the Worlds has happened in the Women's fleet. Record breaking four time World Champions Sofia BEKATOROU and Emilia TSOULFA (GRE), who took a commanding lead from early on to win with a race to spare in Cadiz, have dropped from third to fifth in the rankings.
More consistent performers, Ingrid PETITJEAN and Nadege DOUROUX (FRA), Silver Medal winners in Cadiz, and Vlada ILIENKO and Natalia GAPANOVICH (RUS) who took home the Bronze Medal from the Worlds, now occupy the top two positions. They are in first and second place respectively in the rankings.
A fifth place finish for Christina BASSADONE and Katherine HOPSON (GBR) has seen them up to eleventh from 17 in the rankings, holding their personal selection hopes alive for Athens. Other big movers include Susanne and Michaela WARD (DEN), whose fourteen-place shift up to 14 overall is the highest position they have held.
High-performance Dinghy - 49er
An unfortunate effect of the attendance nature of the rankings has seen Iker MARTINEZ and Javier FERNANDEZ (ESP), arguably one of the favourite teams for Athens in 2004, drop from third in the rankings at the last release just prior to the World Championship to nineteenth 3 weeks later. Injury just prior to the event in Cadiz prevented them from competing and their position has suffered as a result.
What that does mean is that by winning the World Championship with two races to spare, Chris DRAPER and Simon HISCOCKS (GBR) are making their debut as the undisputed best 49er sailors in the world at the moment. They represent one of four British teams in the top eleven and replace friends and training partners Rodion LUKA and George LEONCHUCK (UKR).
Chris SUNDBY (whose sister Siren tops the Europe rankings) and Frode BOVIN (NOR), who trains with Draper and Hiscocks, scored a Silver Medal in Cadiz and as a result have picked their ranking position overall up to fifth.
Things are generally close in the 49er and it will be interesting to see what the next eight months bring into the ranking positions.
Single-handed Dinghy Men - Finn
Ben AINSLIE (GBR), double Finn World Champion, has eventually made it to the top of the ISAF World Sailing Rankings in the Finn. After a close finish in Cadiz, the only event included in this rankings release, he now leads by just over twenty points from Poland's Mateusz KUSNIEREWICZ, himself having not moved position after a sixth at the Worlds.
Sebastien GODEFROID's disappointing ninth place finish in Cadiz has seen him drop to third overall in the rankings and Rafa TRUJILLO (ESP), winner of one of the home country's medals, moves up to seventh from 15 as a direct result, whilst Bronze Medallist Andrew SIMPSON (GBR) has remained solid in seventh.
Multihull Open - Tornado
Quite a stable situation in the Tornado fleet with few big movers as a result of the World Championship in Cadiz. Multiple World Champions Darren BUNDOCK and John FORBES (AUS), who also won in Cadiz, have remained stable in ninth place in the rankings, just ahead of Silver Medallists Leigh McMILLAN and Mark BULKELEY. Despite an eighth place finish in Cadiz, the top spot is still held by Xavier REVIL and Laurent GUILLEMETTE (FRA).
Serial Olympians Santi LANGE and Carlos ESPINOLA (ARG), with their Bronze Medal finish in the Worlds have edged into second place in the rankings, which represents the highest ranking position of any of the medallists from Cadiz. Mitch BOOTH and Herbert DERCKSON (NED) move up from fifth into third place.
Things are still open in the fleet with any one of the top twenty able to take the bull by the horns in the final twelve months before Athens.
Keelboat Women - Yngling
New World Champion Hannah SWETT (USA) and her crew have built on their performance and training leading up to the US Olympic trials next year. Every regatta is used as training for all the American teams working towards a sudden death Trials event in early 2004.
Despite Hannah's win in Cadiz, Betsy ALISON (USA), currently competing in the Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship, still leads the rankings, but the gap between her and the rest of the field is definitely getting smaller.
Ulrike SCHUEMANN (GER) and her crew, with their Silver Medals in Cadiz, have closed the gap to within 100 points of the long time leader of the rankings. Third placed Dorte JENSEN (DEN), retains her position in the top three of the rankings after a good comeback at the Worlds clinched her and her crew the Bronze Medal.
Unlike previous rankings, there are not as many big movers within the top twenty of this class, suggesting that things are settling down as we come into the final few months before Athens 2004.
Keelboat Men - Star
Torben GRAEL (BRA), by his own admission, had a difficult regatta at the ISAF World Championship, yet it is a credit to his commitment and consistency that his result has pushed him up five places, to fifteenth in the Rankings. He is one of the biggest movers within the fleet and along with Colin BEASHEL (AUS) will continue to come on leaps and bounds as they add events to their counted rankings calculations.
New World Champions Xavier ROHART and Pascal RAMBEAU (FRA) have consolidated their position into the top ten by moving up to ninth from twelfth, whilst outgoing World Champion, fellow Finn sailor, training partner and Friend Iain PERCY and Steve MITCHELL (GBR) jump up to second from fourth after their Bronze Medal in Cadiz.
Freddie LOOF (SWE), another of the Finn converts, with his last day Silver Medal in Spain remains the best Star sailor consistently in the World over the last two years, holding his position at the top of the World Rankings. As we go into the final stages of build up and training for Athens 2004, things are only going to get tougher at the top.