Barbara Kendall: IOC member, mother and successful athlete
IOC member and triple Olympic windsurfing medallist Barbara Kendall (NZL) staked her claim as one of the leading contenders for Beijing glory as she won the overall title at the Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma, Spain. The mother of two highlighted a fantastic Kiwi display, which saw them pick up another gold and three more podium positions across the 11 Olympic sailing events contested on the Bay of Palma at the beginning of April.
A strong mind
Last year Kendall was not even sure if she would attempt another Olympic campaign. After missing out on a medal for the first time in four Olympic Games at Athens, she gave birth to her second daughter in 2005 and was also appointed a member of the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission. Moreover, the equipment for the Olympic windsurfing events had also undergone a change. All this left Kendall unsure as to whether she could mentally and physically handle a fifth Olympic campaign. However her mind was made up after a fantastic fifth place finish at the 2006 Worlds – in only her second event on the new board – and the road to Beijing now lies ahead.
After several months training back home in New Zealand, Kendall left with a buoyant New Zealand squad for Spain. The start of the European sailing season brought a record number of entrants to Palma de Mallorca, with well over 1,000 competitors for the 38th Princess Sofia Trophy. With less than four months remaining until the ISAF Sailing World Championships – the principal qualification regatta for the 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition with 75 per cent of all national places to be decided – the competition out on the Bay of Palma was set to be fiercer than ever.
New Olympic format medal race increases pressure
With unusually light and shifty wind conditions throughout most of the opening week, racing proved high tactical, with many of the big names struggling to make an impact. Despite only just recovering from a cold before racing got underway, Kendall got her series off to a terrific start with two third places followed by two race wins, leaving her on 8 points at the halfway stage. However French windsurfer Charline Picon and World Champion Alessandra Sensini (ITA) were also on top form, and the Women’s RS:X series went right down to the wire. The top ten competitors went through to the new Olympic format Medal Race, where the pressure increases with a shorter course, and race scores count for double points.
A southerly wind of 12-14 knots finally brought the expected excellent sailing conditions to Palma for the Medal Races, and Kendall was able to take full advantage. She came in fifth, crucially ahead of Picon and Sensini, to take her first major event title since 2002. New Zealand team mate Tom Ashley gave the Kiwis a windsurfing double by taking the title in the Men’s RS:X fleet.
For Kendall, a fantastic week was made even better when she was presented the Absolute Trophy (awarded to the best performing sailor across the 11 Olympic events) by Their Majesties King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain.