Team GBR update


In part one of this week's series Peter Bentley assesses the season ahead for the British Olympic squad
It will be a tall order for Team GBR 2004 be as successful as this With Ben Ainslie back in the team, Barker and Percy fighting it out in the Star and Shirley Robertson finally settled on a serious Yngling campaign, another crop of Olympic medals in Athens is slowly beginning to look like a serious possibility. Add in the recent conversion of Australian born windsurfing prodigy Natasha Sturgess to British nationality, and the blossoming of undoubted talent in the men's Mistral, 470, Tornado and Laser and things are actually starting to look quite good. And of course there is a whole crop of young sailors coming up the ladder, all dead-set on unseating the established stars at the Olympic Trials and seeking their own moment of glory. Barely a year ago, things were not looking so rosy. Ian Walker had gone off to sail with Peter Harrison's GBR Challenge and was on a huge recruiting campaign. Ben Ainslie had moved to Seattle to sail for OneWorld and neither Percy or Barker could quite make up their minds about the Star. Shirley's thoughts were on planning her wedding. Based on the facts facing them at the time, the RYA's stated goal of one Gold, one Silver and one Bronze medal in Athens looked ambitious. Current prospects for success are as much to do with the structure the RYA put into place in the late 1990s and the significant funding boost given to sport as a whole and sailing in particular by the lottery. The system of identifying the top sailors of the future put into place by the RYA and Sport England in the run up to Sydney was solid but the RYA were keen not to rest too long on past success. To this end, the programme has been extended

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