An exciting finale to the 2008 Paralympic Sailing

Nick Scandone and Maureen Mckinnon-Tucker after winning the Gold medla in the SKUD 18 class - 2008 Paralympics, Qingdao

An exciting finale to the 2008 Paralympic Sailing Competition in Qingdao ended with gold medals going to Canada's Paul TINGLEY in the 2.4 Metre, US pair Nick SCANDONE and Maureen MCKINNON-TUCKER in the SKUD18 and German trio Jens KROKER, Robert PREM and Siegmund MAINKA in the Sonar.

North America shone on the final day of the Paralympic Sailing Competition, with Canada and the USA ending up tied at the top of the medal tally with one gold and one bronze apiece. Along with Germany’s gold medal, the other medals winning nations were France, who won two silver medals after very tightly contested finishes in both the 2.4 Metre and Sonar fleets, and Australia, who won one silver and one bronze.

Nick SCANDONE and Maureen MCKINNON-TUCKER had already secured the gold medal in the Two-Person Keelboat – SKUD18 event even before today’s racing began, with an unassailable lead over the rest of the fleet. However the battle was still on for the remaining medals. After several days of extremely light winds, conditions improved in Qingdao for the final day of racing, with the fleets starting their first race in 7 knots of southeasterly breeze, which increased to just over 10 knots by the end of the day.

The Australian crew of Dan FITZGIBBON and Rachael COX who seized their chance in the stronger breezes, winning the first race of the day and then finishing second in the next to secure themselves the silver medal. With the Australians excelling, the Canadian team of John MCROBERTS and Stacie LOUTTIT had to settle for bronze.

After an emotional medal ceremony US Head Coach Betsy ALISON commented, 'It’s been a long and hard road with the athletes. It was a collective team effort, from families to coaches to support staff. Everyone who was there was part of that medal and victory today.'

Canada’s gold medal came after a thrilling finish to the Single-Person Keelboat - 2.4 Metre series. Paul TINGLEY demonstrated his potential as a medal winner by finishing second at the IFDS Qingdao International Regatta earlier this year. After starting his Paralympic campaign with wins in both opening races he has never been far from the top of the leaderboard throughout the week and ended the series as he started, with a win in the final race, to secure the gold medal. Athens Paralympic gold medallist Damien SEGUIN (FRA) had a wobble midway through the series but put in a great finish with first and second place finishes today lifting him up to second and securing him the silver medal. John RUF of the USA posted two fourth place finishes today to win the bronze medal.

'This is a landmark result for Paralympic sailing in Canada. History has shown we have had success but never two medals and never one that allows you to hear the anthem played see the flag fly and stand on the top step of the podium, King/Queen of your class for the day,' commented Canadian High Performance Director Ken DOOL.

The finish to the Three-Person Keelboat - Sonar series was, if anything, even closer than the 2.4 Metres. Just seven points covered the top five crews at the start of the final day and after the first of today’s two races, won by Athens gold medallists Dror COHEN, Arnon EFRATI and Benny VEXLER (ISR), the gap between the top four was down to just three points.

The crews from France, Germany, Australia and Norway all lined up at the start of race 11 knowing they were within touching distance of a Paralympic gold medal and it was to be this four-way race within a race which was to prove decisive. The Germans Jens KROKER, Robert PREM and Siegmund MAINKA seized the initiative and arrived at the first mark fractionally ahead of the French team of Bruno JOURDREN, Hervé LARHANT and Nicolas VIMONT VICARY, who had led the series since the opening day. The French team had a two-point gap on the Germans in the overall standings so were affectively in a gold medal winning position.

The German and French teams stayed close over the next two legs but then disaster struck for JOURDREN, LARHANT and VIMONT VICARY as a problem with their spinnaker forced them out of the race. KROKER, PREM and MAINKA held on to their fifth position across the finishing line to leapfrog the French in the overall standings and take Paralympic gold. The French took the silver medal with Australia’s Colin HARRISON, Russell BOADEN and Graeme MARTIN finishing seventh in the race and winning bronze.

The medal ceremonies marked the conclusion of the largest-ever Paralympic Sailing Competition. The Closing Ceremony of the 2008 Paralympic Games will be held in Beijing on 17 September.

ISAF Paralympic Games microsite - www.sailing.org/paralympics