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US Olympic Sailing Team 2012: Updated News & Analysis for America's Squad

Gil ImberAnalyst IIJune 26, 2012

US Olympic Sailing Team 2012: Updated News & Analysis for America's Squad

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    U.S. Sailing has seen moderate success over the past few Olympic Games, having won two medals—one gold and one silver—at both 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing.

    Ah, sailing, the sport so large one needs a helicopter to follow the event. With event titles like "laser," "tornado," "star" and "yngling"—whatever that is—it is no secret that sailing is a particularly fun event to watch.

    With the Olympic Charter specifically banning motorsports, sailing is perhaps the closest Summer Games sport to those fast & furious events—at the very least, sailing always threatens to produce the fastest speeds seen at the Games. At least one former medalist is trying to get so-called speed sailing adopted as an Olympic sport.

    Until then, we take a look at the slower US Olympic sailing team in 2012 and their chances at repeating—or improving upon—another two-medal performance.

Key Athletes

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    With a consecutive-Games medal streak on the line, the following athletes will prove crucial to Team USA's chances:

    Anna Tunnicliffe (Pictured)

    With a laser radial gold from the 2008 Games already in her back pocket, American Anna Tunnicliffe returns to the Olympic stage trying to repeat with another medal, albeit in a different event. Tunnicliffe joins crewmates Debbie Capozzi and Molly Vandemoer in the newest inductee to the Olympic program, women's match racing.

    Since Beijing, Tunnicliffe has been named US Sailing's Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year annually from 2008 through 2011, the first woman to win the title four straight years. She was also named ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year in 2009 and 2011 and most recently claimed bronze with Capozzi and Vandemoer in Britain's pre-Olympic Sail for Gold 2012. In the ISAF Women's World Championship 2012, Tunnicliffe is presently four-for-four, defeating French, Dutch and Swedish rivals en route to what she hopes will be yet another first-place finish.

    Zach Railey

    On the men's side, sailor Zach Railey won the silver in the Finn at the Beijing Games and was been named US Sailing's Sportsman of the Year annually from 2008 through 2010. For the Railey's it must run in the family, as Zach's sister and Olympic teammate, Paige, won bronze at the 2011 ISAF Sailing Wold Championships and has six World Cup wins under her belt. Look for this dynamic duo to make a splash in the men's and women's competition in London.

    Medal candidate? You bet.

    Other Athletes

    From six-time World Cup women's match racing medal winner Sally Barkow to RS:X top spot qualifier at the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships Bob Willis, the United States will field a veritable squad of medal contenders and sailing professionals. 

US Chances and Challengers in London

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    When your country is surrounded by water, you learn to swim or sail.

    For Britain's Ben Ainslie the choice was sailing, and ever since, Ainslie has been the man to beat. Ainslie will attempt an unprecedented fourth straight gold medal—and fifth consecutive overall—in London, a feat he looks poised to accomplish after winning the 2010 World Match Racing Tour. Finn has been kind to the Macclesfield native, with Ainslie taking the top prize in five of seven World Cups, finishing second and fourth in his other two attempts.

    However, Ainslie may also very well be the bad boy of sailing, having been disqualified from a 2011 event in protest after climbing aboard a television boat to argue with a cameraman after the media vessel appeared to have interfered with Ainslie's progress during the final downwind leg. Right or wrong, Ainslie is a competitor and will be the one to beat.

    Meanwhile, after Israeli Olympian Gal Fridman put the coastline state on the international map with a windsurfing gold in 2004—Israel's first-ever gold medal—Lee Korzits hopes to repeat the performance on the women's side. A windsurfer ever since she could walk, Korzits described the sport's appeal: "I feel the water in my veins. I get a silence on the water that I cannot get on land."

    Korzits will race in her second Olympics, hoping to gain gold nearly 10 years after becoming the youngest world champion, with a Spain win in 2003. In 2009, Korzits broke two ribs after a collision with another surfer, while in 2010 she nearly drowned in Poland after being knocked off her board at the European Championships.

    Meanwhile, Brazilians Robert Scheidt and partner Bruno Prada hope to capture gold in the men's star class. Scheidt is a former world junior winner (1991) and owns three Olympic medals, including a 1996 Atlanta gold.

    Prada teamed with Scheidt prior to the 2008 games and the duo captured silver in their first go-around. In all, Prada and Scheidt have won seven of nine star class competitions over the past year and are ranked as the best in the world.

Prediction

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    U.S. Sailing faces many threats in London, and though the U.S. presently leads the all-time sailing medal count by eight discs, Team USA will not stand in Ben Ainslie's pursuit of history nor Britain's pursuit of home-water advantage.

    American Anna Tunnicliffe and her crew stand to win Olympic gold in match racing, which will make Tunnicliffe the first American sailor to have won gold in multiple sailing events. After finishing undefeated and earning yet another gold at the 2012 French Olympic Sailing Week, a medal in London seems inevitable.

    Meanwhile, windsurfers Lee Korzits and Italian Alessandra Sensini—who is competing in her sixth Olympics, having earned one medal quadrennially since Atlanta 1996—will prevent Team USA from dominating the RS:X competition.

    Expect the United States to continue their trend by earning a pair of medals in London, though the team also has a strong shot at upping that count to three, especially if Zach Railey challenges Ainslie next month. Nonetheless, barring an upset of monumental proportions, Railey will secure a silver or even bronze at the 2012 Games.

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