London 2012 RS:X Women's medal race: Alabau takes gold
Spain’s Marina Alabau started the day with a 14 point lead or having to finish in the top six, with four potentially able to take gold off her, while six sailors were fighting it out to claim silver and bronze - Lee-El Korzits (ISR), Tuuli Petäjä (FIN), Moana Delle (GER), Zofia Noceti-Klepacka (POL), Olga Maslivets (UKR) and Britain’s Bryony Shaw. Shaw went into the race 11 points off silver, but with so many sailors ahead of her, her chances of even defending her bronze medal from Beijing were slim.
The race got underway with Maslivets winning the pin and pulling away to the left at speed in her own personal breeze. But she was unable to lay the mark and, having to put in two extra tacks, was caught by Bryony Shaw with overall leader Marina Alabau third.
Shaw remained on the Ukrainian's tail down the run, but was overhauled by the talented Spaniard on the next beat, with Petäjä pulling up to fourth. This remained the same until the latter stages of the third beat when Noceti-Klepacka sped into the top mark to overhaul Shaw.
On the final run, Marina Alabau pulled into the lead ahead of the Ukrainian with the Pole third and Shaw being passed at the end of the run by the Finn to take fifth. This left Finland’s Petäjä with silver and Poland’s Noceti-Klepacka taking bronze.
“It was super exciting, really my conditions,” said Alabau. “I had a lot of confidence in myself and all that I wanted to do, I did. I won a medal and I am super happy now. I was there from the first day and two days ago, I didn’t have a really good day, but I take a put a lot of distance on the other girls, so two days ago I could smell the gold and today I had to be calm and that is what I did and I am really happy. Probably this was my best medal race and one of my best races for sure.”
One reason for Alabau’s success is that the fight to get the Spanish slot was so intense between her and Blanca Manchon, the 2010 World Champion, while Alabau won the same title the year before in Weymouth. “I have been in the top for the last seven years. It was just my conditions here in Weymouth. I was World Champion here. I always feel super good in these conditions.”
Alabau said she was sorry not to see her training partner Lee-El Korzits take a medal and this was indeed odd given that the Israeli was World Champion at Perth 2011 and again Cadiz in March. “She has been second all the competition. She is the World Champion and just because she had a bad day today, because it is not her conditions, she missed a medal. I think it is not fair, but sport is like this.”
As Kortiz put it: “I am good in strong winds and today was really hard because the wind was light, so I tried to do my best. I don’t feel pressure. I am really proud of myself and the way I am doing. I have been World Champion three times and I have come back after a really hard time [she was badly injured in a car accident]. I really wanted an Olympic medal, but what can I say, everything is not up to me and maybe it is something that was written before somewhere and that is all. I tried my best.”
Finland’s Tuuli Petäjä was an unexpected feature of the podium. She finished third at the Europeans but apart from Skandia Sail for Gold this year when she was 7th , the last time she made it through to a medal race even was the summer of 2009.
“It was really tight racing today,” said Petäjä of her silver, the first medal for Finland at London 2012. “These shifty gusty conditions really suit me. I am more of a tactical sailor. It was really fun racing out there today.
Coming ashore Bryony Shaw seemed in good shape despite – going into today’s race, a medal had been very much an outside shot.
“I went out there pretty positive and had nothing to lose and everything to gain," she said. "I was pretty happy with the conditions out there. I thought it was going to be a tactical race, but I didn’t have a plan to control the race, just do my race and hope for the best.
“I was pretty much joint first at the bottom mark with the Ukrainian and it was a big call to be dagger down or track back and I think it was marginal gain to be track back and quite a risk. Obviously it paid off for the Ukraine girl and the Spanish girl, but me and everyone behind chose to go dagger down and I was going pretty well speed-wise with my dagger down so I chose that mode and it worked for the first couple of laps and honestly the Polish girl came from nowhere - I didn’t even see where she came from but she came through with great board speed and rolled over the top of me and sat on me after that.
“So fifth in the medal race: another average result for me. I was up there at the beginning of the race and that has been how it has been throughout the week – just getting clawed back on the second or third lap. I haven’t done anything too impressive this week. I got one race win, it has all been about trying to pick myself up and be positive and that day really showed to myself, that I can hold a race together and keep that place at the front of the fleet throughout the race, but is just seemed to not really go my way and the same happened again in the medal race.”
While Shaw says she is fit now, if she has been off the pace at London 2012 then it maybe due to the fact that for three months of this year she has been laid out, unable to train, with a repetitious chest infection. “Having to have time off the water and obviously that wasn’t ideal especially for me. I am a physical sailor, but again we have had that sort of positive attitude, that it shouldn’t affect things too much. It is unfortunate that it happened and it has definitely had an effect. The main thing this week has been that I am up there at the beginning races, but then dropping back during the later stages of each race thorough tactical mistakes or board speed. Things like forearm cramp is a physical issue and maybe the chest infection played a part of that.”
More photos from Carlo Borlenghi/www.borlenghi.com/FIV