Looking at the sailing results so far from Weymouth, the Asian nations haven't done so well. In fact, the only Asian sailor to get into the top ten of their class – and, therefore, the medal race – is Xu Lijia (CHN) in the Laser Radial who converted that to a gold medal-winning performance. Congratulations, Ms Xu! So what has happened to the oft-quoted optimism about sailing being one of the sports in which ‘the Asian physique' can genuinely compete?
Asian nations such as Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia have enjoyed recent success at the junior levels – just look at Singapore's recent medal haul at the Optimist Worlds, and remember that Thailand produced a World Champ Oppie sailor in Noppakao Poonpat the year before last.
But the gap between the junior level sailing and Olympics is huge – the raw material is there, but getting enough young sailors to commit to two Olympic cycles of training plans is a big challenge in most countries where sailing has yet to gain traction as a culture or a pathway towards a career. Singapore has the added complication of young people being conscripted for a two-year term in military training, with no exemptions. It's a very tough call to carry over to the senior level.
Here are the numbers:
Taipei Chang Hao, RS:X Men 35th/38
Hong Kong Leung Ho Tsun, RS:X Men 13th/38 Hayley Chan, RS:X Women 12th/26
Japan Tomizawa Makoto, RS:X Men 28th/38 Sunaga Yuki, RS:X Women 21st/26 Doi Manami, Laser Radial 31st/41 Ryunosuke/Yungo, 470 Men 18th/27 (2 races to go) Ai/Wakako, 470 Women 11th/20 (4 races to go) Kenji/Makino, 49er 18th/20 (1 race to go)
Korea Lee Tae Hon, RS:X men 15th/38 He Jeemin, Laser 24th/49 Cho/Park, 470 Men 18th/27 (2 races to go)
Malaysia Mohd Afendy, Laser 47th/49
China Wang Aichen, RS:X Men 18th/38 Li Ling, RS:X Women 14th/26 Shi Jian, Laser 43rd/49 Xu Lijia, Laser Radial 1st/41 Gong Lei, Finn 24th/24 Deng/Wang, 470 Men 22nd/27 (2 races to go) Huang/Wang, 470 Women 19th/20 (4 races to go)
Singapore Colin Cheung, Laser 15th/49 Elizabeth Yin, Laser Radial 24th/41
Thailand Boonsawad Ek, RS:X Men 33rd/38 Napalai Tansai, RS:X Women 24th/26 Bualong Keerati, Laser 48th/49
And another thing. What would you rather win – a gold medal at the Olympics, or a Class World Championship? Or Wimbledon (if you are a tennis player)? Or Henley (for the rowers out there)? This has always puzzled me – since there is only one sailor allowed from any one country in any one class in the Olympic regatta, that means that many of the best sailors just aren't there. Giles Scott in the Finn class, for example. But somehow the Olympics have some sort of extra magic, don't they?
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