No 49er gold medalists have ever repeated their feat, and that record stays in tact for Rio 2016. With Peter Burling and Blair Tuke already a lock to secure their first ever Gold medals, t’s the silver and bronze that will be up for grabs today. The 49er medal race sets up with a little more complexity than the ridiculous, 4 way tie, 49erFX medal race, but will be equally compelling.
The 2012 Gold medalists, Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen (AUS) are instead chasing the silver, sitting 3 points behind Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel (GER). The Germans and Aussies must also pay attention to fourth overall Dylan Fletcher and Alain Sign (GBR) who set 13 points behind the Germans and 10 points behind the Aussie.
The three way battle for silver and bronze is a compelling match up among three highly experienced teams. Nathan and Iain are world rated sailors, household names from the 2012 Gold medals and America’s Cup success. The Germans and British teams are both well into their third quadrennials of training as teams in the 49er, with dozens of top championship finishes and highly polished overall games. Both are in their first Olympics, so they will have never been through the nerves that come with such global exposure and expectation.
The British team will need a bit of luck on their side in order to put a large number of boats between them and one or both of these medal rivals. On their side is the fact that each of the 10 teams has something to achieve in the medal race in terms of their personal placings, so all 10 teams will be out to compete at their best level. Only 16.3 points separate 5th from 10th and all six teams have top skills able to win themselves a race in any fleet. While the race won’t be as simple to understand as the 49erFX medal race, in it’s own way it will just as compelling.
There is no doubt that Outteridge and Jensen will be highly motivated to push up into Silver. It takes major guts and ambition to try out being both an America’s Cup team leader and still have an Olympic campaign, and these Aussies will want to at least match the Kiwi’s haul of a Gold and a Silver.
The German pairs road to the top level of 49er sailing has had more ups and downs. They lost the German trials for 2012, when they were the up and comers, but hit this quadrennial hard and have been among the top group since 2013. They were the top Europeans at the European Championship in 2014 and gained notoriety for their synchronized back flips and hilarious parody videos (Baywatch)(Heartbeat). In 2015, they had a scare, however, as their team mates Justus Schmit and Max Boeme made a serious charge winning a medal at the 2015 European Championship, the first event in the German trials. Heil and Ploessel held their nerve, however, strong results at both the 2015 and 2016 Worlds earned them the right to compete in Rio.
The Germans took the Bronze medal at the 2015 Test Event in Rio and then made global headlines when Erik was taken ill from a water infection and had to spend a week in hospital upon returning to Germany. Ultimately, he had a couple small pieces of flesh removed from his legs and hips but was quickly recovered and showed no fear in returning to Rio.
Britains Dylan Fletch and Alain Sign have been sailing together for 12 years now and appear in their first games. They narrowly missed selection for the 2012 home Olympics in a controversial choice made by British selectors in a three way fight for the berth. They hunkered down, however, and won an a somewhat surprising selection over Jon Pink and Stuart Bithell. Starting slowly at this event, the duo has come on strong with a string of 7 straight top 10 finishes, winning the final day of fleet racing, to give themselves a shot at a medal. Dylan is one of the most intense and outspoken sailors on circuit, constantly striving to push every part of his sailing to the highest possible level.
The Brits love to win the pin of a start, often a higher risk move, and in this medal race they will need a very high finish so if the course is left favored look for them to take the pin end and get out in front, hoping the Germans, Aussies, or both get mixed up among the bunch and can’t catch up.
It will be interesting to see how Burling and Tuke approach the race. At times assured medalists just crusie through the medal race content to keep out of the way. The trend in Rio however was to try and go out on a bang. Dorian Van Resielburge (NED) capped his RSX men’s Gold medal by spanking the medal race fleet. Giles Scott (GBR) attempted to do the same but had to settle for second after a medal chasing Caleb Paine (USA) took the race and a Bronze medal. In this case, it could really matter how they race, and their certainly very competitive mates with Dorian, so bets are they try to take the win.
The two 470 medal races delayed from yesterday start at 1300 hours. The 49er medal race is 14:35 local time followed by the winner takes all 49erFX medal race at 15:20 local time. Be sure to tune in for some captivating racing via a host of links at our event page.