Sailing embraces the old and the new at Buenos Aires 2018
The River Plate provided the setting as the Techno 293+ windsurfing class and the Nacra 15 catamaran class were joined on the Olympic sailing programme by the IKA Twin Tip Racing kiteboarding class, with all three serving up some excellent entertainment for the spectators.
The first sailing medals of the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 were awarded in windsurfing, where Greece’s Alexandros Kalpogiannakis and Italy’s Giorgia Speciale were in a class of their own in the men’s and women’s competitions respectively. Both won their opening two races to take to the top of the standings, where they remained. Kalpogiannakis recorded 10 top-three finishes in the 11 races and won five of them, while Speciale did exactly the same in claiming her gold.
“The conditions were really tough because there was a current and the wind kept changing. It wasn’t very easy,” said Kalpogiannakis, who placed seventh in the final men’s race but was already in an unassailable position in the standings. Italy’s Nicolo Renna, a close friend, house-mate and training partner of Speciale’s, took silver despite finishing 13th in the final race. The bronze went to Great Britain’s Finn Hawkins, his country’s first medal of Buenos Aires 2018.
“Two medals for Italy is amazing,” said Speciale, after winning the women’s final race to set the seal on her runaway success. “Nicolo and I are like brother and sister. Every morning we said to each other that we had to train our hardest because the Youth Olympic Games only comes around once in a lifetime. We worked hard every day.”
The women’s silver was claimed by France’s Manon Pianazza, whose older sister Lucie won bronze in the same event at Nanjing 2014, with 15-year-old Russian Yana Reznikova edging past Israel’s Naama Gazit in the standings to take third place on the podium.
Argentinian gold in Nacra 15
The large crowds that followed the Nacra 15 mixed event at Yacht Club San Isidro had plenty to cheer as home pair Dante Cittadini and Teresa Romairone justified their status as favourites to win the gold. The Argentinian duo took to the top of the standings after the second race and stayed there, finishing sixth in the final race to clinch gold, which they celebrated by jumping into the water.
Cittadini, who carried his country’s flag at the Opening Ceremony, and Romairone, who took the Olympic oath, earned the praise of Santiago Lange, Argentina’s greatest sailor of all time, for their achievement. “It’s pretty obvious that they’re on track for the Olympic Games because they have all the skills,” said Lange, a six-time Olympian and a gold medallist with Cecilia Carranza Saroli in the Nacra 17 class at Rio 2016. “If they go on to beat us, it will be a great honour and pleasure to lose to them.”
“It’s amazing that he said that,” commented Romairone in response. “Santi and Ceci have given us so much help. I’d love to have as much knowledge as they do. They’re like gods.” France’s Titouan Pétard and Kenza Coutard claimed the silver behind the Argentinians and Laila van der Meer and Bjarne Bouwer of the Netherlands the bronze.
Kiteboarding makes a notable debut
One of the new events on the Olympic programme, kiteboarding (IKA Twin Tip Racing class) proved to be a spectacular addition to the schedule. In the women’s competition, Italy’s Sofia Tomasoni won gold in spite of suffering a broken nose in a collision with a jet ski three days before the final race. Defying the advice of doctors and her parents, she was back in the water the following day, determined to claim the prize she had come to Buenos Aires for. “I didn’t have any time to feel scared. I just ran and never looked back. When things get tough it makes you even better.” France’s Poema Newland and Nina Font of Spain shared silver.
In the men’s competition, Deury Corniel of the Dominican Republic lived up to his status as a very warm favourite for gold by winning every race except two, with one of his victories coming in the final race, which he led from start to finish. “I was very focused,” said Corniel. “I love competing. I got my head down and told myself that my time had come.” Behind him, Slovenia’s Toni Vodisek and Christian Tio of the Philippines shared second place on the podium.
With 44 NOCs represented by 99 athletes at Buenos Aires, sailing showed its universal appeal on the YOG stage.