GBR Paralympic update

Skandia Team GBR prepare for the IFDS World Championship in Australia

Tuesday January 17th 2006, Author: Lindsey Bell, Location: United Kingdom
The 2008 Paralympic Games may still be over two years away, but Skandia Team GBR’s sailors are making their first moves towards qualification for the Games this week, as the IFDS (International Foundation for Disabled Sailing) World Championships get underway in Perth, Australia.

John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Stephen Thomas – reigning IFDS World Champions in the Sonar class – and 2.4mR Open world bronze medallist Helena Lucas will spearhead the Skandia Team GBR challenge at the 2006 IFDS Worlds, which is the first of two opportunities for nations to qualify for the 2008 Paralympic sailing event.

Over 70 competitors from 14 nations will race on the Swan River from 19-25 January, and the top seven ranked nations in both the 2.4 mR (one-person keelboat) and Sonar (three-person keelboat) will gain qualification for the 2008 Paralympic regatta.

Robertson and his crew will be defending the IFDS World title they captured in Danish waters in September, and will count Norwegian Jostein Stordahl’s IFDS silver medal-winning crew, and Jens Kroker’s bronze medal-winning outfit from Germany amongst their strongest threats for the title.

Skandia Team GBR’s Sonar coach, Mark Rushall, is confident that the team’s preparations will stand them in good stead.

“The team have now been here for a week – first priority was to get over time zone effects, unload containers, check and make good any travel damage, and fine-tuning of the boats to prepare for the prevailing conditions. The British team can be found pumping iron each morning, though heavy gym work tails off as the regatta proper approaches.

“The primary goal at these championships is to qualify GBR for places at the Paralympic Games in China: effectively this requires a top 7 place at this event for Sonars and 2.4's, though last year's results indicate that the GBR performance squad have their sights set higher than that.”

Megan Pascoe and Michael Cogswell join Helena Lucas as Skandia Team GBR’s contenders for the 2.4mR crown. Lucas and Cogswell both enjoyed podium success during 2005, clinching gold and bronze respectively at the Hyeres Grade 1 regatta. Lucas also earned bronze medals at both Kiel Week and the 2.4mR Open World Championships in Italy, where she finished third out of a fleet of 88 disabled and able-bodied sailors.

The 2.4mR line-up in Perth includes USA’s 2.4mR Open World Champion Nick Scandone, and Paralympic and IFDS World Champion Damien Seguin of France – although Seguin hasn’t had the best of fortune ahead of his title defence, as Skandia Team GBR’s 2.4mR coach Adam May explained.

“We are still waiting to see if Damien will make the regatta in time. The container ship his boat was on broke down and had to divert to Italy, so he collected it from there and flew the boat. It has now got lost in customs, and they are trying to find it...”

More information on the 2006 IFDS World Championships can be found at http://www.2006ifdsworlds.com.au

The first qualifying event for a new two-person keelboat Paralympic event in the UD-18 will take place later in the year.

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