Today, following yesterday's guide to who's who in the 470 class at the ISAF World Championship in Cadiz, we bring you the low down on the Single-handed Dinghy Open, the Laser.
The Laser made its debut appearance at the 1996 Olympic Regatta, Savannah and has continued to prove itself one of the most widely spread of the equipment used at the Olympic Regatta.
Six times World Champion and Olympic Gold medallist in 1996 Robert SCHEIDT
(BRA) returns to break even more records. Following on from a faultless performance in the recent Pan American Games, and a two-point victory over Daniel BIRGMARK
(SWE) at the recent Athens Regatta 2003, his confidence will be up going into this World Championship. He will probably find it his hardest yet though. Young British sailor, Paul GOODISON
, following a string of solid top five results in ISAF Grade 1 and World Championships, will be hunting his first World Championship victory and will want it with a passion.
The battle between Goodison and Scheidt may well be akin to that between Scheidt and Ainslie at the Sydney Olympic Games, but these two by no means hold exclusivity on the top places. Kalle SUNESON
(SWE), last year's runner up at the World Championship will be right up there, as will currently ranked number four, Roope SUOMALAINEN
(FIN), whose first place at the Semaine Olympique Francaise shows that he too can mix it with the big boys.
Birgmark himself has also recently rediscovered the form that saw him take a victory in the Athens Regatta last year. With a qualification battle between himself and Suneson, we could see them bringing out the best in each other through competition.
It is worth noting that many of the Laser sailors are on their third Olympic campaign, including Scheidt, Peer MOBERG
(NOR), Allen JULIE
(SEY), Eszes TAMAS (HUN) and Philippe BERGMANS
(BEL), a depth of very experienced talent.
Another Australian prodigy is the young Ricky IRONMONGER
, having won Gold in the class at the 2003 ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships, as part of a hugely successful Australian team, he will be looking more and more to a great future in the class and in Olympic sailing, and will be one to watch at both the World Championships here in Cadiz, and for the future.
However, Michael BLACKBURN
, bronze medallist from Sydney 2000 and placed fifth at the 1996 Olympic Regatta, after a break from competing is making a strong comeback and will certainly want to place ahead of the Australian young guns.
Nations Already Qualified for the 2004 Olympic Regatta from results at the 2002 Laser Class World Championship:
Brazil (BRA), Sweden (SWE), Great Britain (GBR), Italy (ITA), South Africa (RSA), Belgium (BEL), Finland (FIN), Canada (CAN), Croatia (CRO), Spain (ESP), Austria (AUT), Slovenia (SLO), Turkey (TUR).
At this year's World Championship, as the second nation qualification opportunity, there are a further 17 Olympic slots up for grabs. But with 159 sailors from 56 countries entered, which countries those 17 slots will go to is really anybody's guess.
Tomorrow ISAF will bring you the low down on the Multihull Open, the Tornado.
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