Singapore rules the waves in Nanjing
Bernie Chin and Samantha Yom registered a historic sailing double for Singapore winning gold in the men’s and women’s one-person dinghy events. In the windsurfing, meanwhile, Argentina’s Francisco Cruz Saubidet Birkner won the men’s gold and China’s Wu Linli took the women’s title.
The 100 young sailors who entered the men’s and women’s Byte CII single-handed dinghy and T293 windsurfing competitions had to use all their acumen to tackle the changeable conditions on Lake Jinniu.
After a week of fine weather, the medal races in all of the events took place amid strong winds and rain. And it was Singapore’s young sailors who made the headlines, as they took two of the four golds up for grabs, their country’s first ever Olympic medals.
Chin opens his country’s account
Despite coming fifth in the men’s medal race, Singapore’s Bernie Chin ended the men’s Byte CII single-handed dinghy competition with a comfortable nine-point lead over nearest rival Rodolfo Pires of Portugal, thanks in the main to wins in races three and five and top-three finishes in races four and seven.
“I was playing safe, and not trying to do anything. I was just trying to maintain,” Chin said. “I just needed to be ahead and be in the top five. Even though I lost one position at the end on the downwind, I wasn’t pushing very hard.”
Hungary’s Jonatan Vadnai, who finished fourth in the medal race, did enough to take the bronze.
Yom doubles the delight for Singapore
Chin’s compatriot Samantha Yom doubled Singapore’s joy by winning the women’s dinghy gold. She secured the title by a solitary point from the Netherlands’ Odile van Aanholt, who could only finish seventh in the medal race, well behind Yom in second.
“I’ve learned a lot about how much support actually means,” said the champion. “I’m really grateful for all the support I’ve received from my father and mother, who are here.”
Yom’s father Michael said it was a moment they had dared not dream about: “We didn’t want to hope for too much. She came with a goal of being in the top five. But it was a fantastic achievement that she reached gold. Maybe too much for us to absorb.”
Windsurfing champs set sights on RS:X Olympic class
In the Techno 293 windsurfing class the women’s gold went to China’s Wu Linli, with Argentina’s Francisco Cruz Saubidet Birkner taking the honours in the men’s event.
Wu dominated her competition, winning four of the last five races, including the final one, to end with a hugely impressive score of just ten points. Reflecting on her achievement, the Chinese windsurfer said her preparations had been perfect: “To prepare for this event, I lost weight. I went from 69kg to 55kg for the lighter winds.”
Russia’s Mariam Sekhposyan took second in the medal race to tally 18 points and land the silver, with France’s Lucie Pianazza coming in fourth to take her points total to 20, good enough for the bronze.
In the men’s event, Saubidet Birkner went into the medal race trailing Russia’s Maxim Tokarev despite having won three of the six previous races.
The Argentinian and the Russian engaged in a tense tacking duel in the decisive race, which was won by France’s Tom Monnet. Saubidet Birkner stole in front of his opponent at the final buoy, however, and crossed the line in second place to snatch gold from the grasp of Tokarev, who trailed in just behind him in third. The bronze went to the Netherlands’ Lars van Someren, who won the opening race of the event.
“I trained all year for this event, and I finished first,” said the champion. “After this I will have a small vacation, then I will move to RS:X. It’s more difficult, so I’ll have to train more. But now I can train with my brother Bautista, who competed at the first Youth Olympic Games at Singapore 2010.”
Wu is also aiming to step up to RS:X, which has been the Olympic windsurfing class since Beijing 2008. Likewise, with Rio 2016 on the horizon, the next step for the competitors in the one-person dinghy events is to move up to the Laser class, in the case of the men, and Laser Radial, in the case of the women.