Monday, October 15, 2007

I’m going to the Olympics! - Anna

Photo: Amory Ross,
It hasn’t fully sunk in yet but I’m going to the Olympics! It took just one race here today at the US Sailing Olympic Selection Trials to clinch my claim to the US Laser Radial slot at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Qingdao, China.

Today provided a fitting end to a long, tough week of competition. Autumn had arrived for sure and we had bright, chilly conditions with a promise of winter in the air as we rigged up and launched off Third Beach. This was the end of the chapter.

For two years now I’ve been engaged in a drawn-out battle with my team-mate Paige Railey for supremacy in the Radial Class. I’ve been making steady progress all those months although it hasn’t always appeared that way. This week was no exception as Paige continued to push me hard over the 16-race series.

Today, my game plan was clear as I pushed off the beach. With a four-point advantage after 14 races, all I had to do was sail conservatively and finish in the top three in the first race this morning. And I had to avoid any penalty calls that might go against me. It looks simple on paper but I was treating today’s competition as two of the toughest races in my life.

In the pre-start, Paige was setting up at the pin end of the line so I headed down that way to play it safe and stay in touch. However we got into a little skirmish and there was a slight contact. Paige hollered "Protest" even though she had no grounds. To play it safe, I spun a defensive circle anyway just to be sure we stayed out of The Room.

The wind was out of the west at 8-12 knots and really puffy when we started but it continued building throughout the race and became more consistent. We had a few gusts to 17 knots and a nice chop.

I was a couple of seconds late at the start but that was OK because it let me tack and go right which was where I wanted to be anyway. And, as the most right-hand boat, I was the first to gain the next shift and new pressure. At the weather mark I was second behind Emily Billings. Paige was back in eighth or something like that. I hauled in Emily on the reach and then extended on the run to lead the rest of the way.

There was no need for me to sail the last race. My parents were on the spectator boat and my coach Mitch Brindley picked them up and followed me back to Third Beach which was deserted because all the other girls, except Paige, were still racing. As I sailed into that empty stretch of sand with an escort fleet of one, it began to sink in. I’d done it! I met Paige on the beach and we hugged. If Paige wasn’t as good a sailor as she is, I would not be where I am now. She is a great sailor, and it was a tough battle. Next year she’ll be the alternate Radial sailor for the US in China.

You can find Laser Radial Results on the web pages of Sail Newport. I would like to thank my sponsors Carmeuse and K-Swiss for supporting my campaign for the Olympic Gold.

Sail hard, Anna