Top sailing stories to watch in Rio

Top sailing stories to watch in Rio

Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha, U.S. Sailing's women's 470 team

The 2016 Rio Games are right around the corner and the waters of Marina da Glória will host the Olympic sailing competitions. Here are the top five stories that will take place on that lake from August 8 – 19.

American redemption

The U.S. Sailing Olympic team has four stars sailing in the 470: Teammates Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha and teammates Stu McNay and Dave Hughes.

Paige Railey comes back to her second Olympic Games with a great shot at a medal in the Laser Radial. The United States has accrued the most medals in Olympic sailing with 59 but only 19 are gold compared to Britain’s 25. However, the U.S. did not win any medals at the 2012 Games – marking the first time that occurred since the 1936 Berlin Games. These five sailors have the best chance at redemption and a chance to keep U.S. Sailing at the top of the medal charts.

Kiwi’s 49er dominance

The men’s 49er class gold medal at the Rio Games is New Zealand’s to lose. In the past four years, Blair Tuke and skipper Peter Burling have been undefeated through 26 regattas in their respective 49er class.

Although they won silver at the London Games, they won gold in four straight world championships and plan to continue their streak in Rio. “It’s not about the winning streak,” Burling said, according to the Associated Press. “We’re not too worried about that. The last four years have been about trying to get a gold medal for New Zealand in Rio.”

Big British shoes to fill

Great Britain’s Giles Scott will attempt to take over the reign of five-time Olympic medalist Ben Ainslie. Ainslie, Britain’s most-decorated sailor in Games history, moved on to compete in America’s Cup.

However, in the last four years, Scott has won gold in 16 of 18 regattas entered. The Finn class will crown a new winner in Rio and Scott will be a top contender.

Out with the old – in with the new

The International Olympic Committee dropped the Star class for the Rio Games after an 84 year tenure – the women’s Elliot 6m class was also dropped. Replacing the two classes are the women’s 49erFX (dinghy) and the mixed Nacra 17 (multihull).

Brazil’s Torbin Grael – who was outspoken about Rio’s missed opportunity to clean up Guanabara Bay – and Robert Scheidt have six combined medals in the Star class for their country (Grael: two gold, two bronze; Scheidt: one silver, one bronze). Therefore, the exclusion of the Star class in Rio didn’t sit well with Brazilians, according to the Associated Press. However, Grael’s bloodline seeks to follow in their father’s footsteps. His daughter, Maritine Grael and son Marco will sail in the women’s 49erFX and men’s 49er classes. Scheidt enters his sixth Olympic Games and will compete in the Laser class.

Not-so smooth sailing

Sailors competing at the Rio Games have no choice but to take on Marina da Glória and all of its conveyed dangers full force.

Some of the boats competing are easily susceptible to capsizing, exposing athletes to the reported polluted and virus-filled waters.

According to the Associated Press; after competing in a test event in August, German sailor Erik Heil underwent surgery to treat inflammation and skin infections, potentially from the exposure to the water. The danger lurks, however, one sailor in particular is not worried: “I don’t have any fear about the water at all, actually,” U.S. Sailing athlete Paige Railey said – who has made several trips to Rio and has eaten fish from the bay.

Moreover, one of the main ramps at the sailing venue partially collapsed on August 30. No injuries were reported and training was not affected, but it doesn’t help the highly-criticized sailing venue’s case.

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