Twenty-three Men's Heavyweight Dinghy (Finn) sailors will race at the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition with one name in particular touted as the one to watch.
Great Britain's Giles Scott.
The towering Briton has dominated in the Finn, winning 19 of 21 events over the last four years. The ones he didn't win, he finished second, within a whisker of the eventual winners. Throughout the Rio 2016 quadrennial Scott has amassed three World Championship titles and two key victories at the 2014 and 2015 Olympic Test Events to hand him the tag as favourite.
When racing starts at 13:00 local time on Tuesday 9 August on the Pao de Acucar racing area, Scott will be joined by an experienced bunch of competitors. London 2012 silver medallist Jonas Hogh Christensen (DEN), bronze medallist Jonathan Lobert (FRA), European Champion Pieter Jan Postma (NED) and two-time Olympic Laser medallist Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) will be racing to win.
“There is a pack of about eight, nine, possibly ten guys all capable of medalling,” explained Scott. “I wouldn't be able to single out any one person, it's the usual suspects like the Kiwis, Danish, French, Croatians, Dutch. I'm certainly where I want to be and I think if you asked anyone of my competitors they would all be happy enough to say they'd want to go into the Olympics with a string of results that I've had.
“But that doesn't change anything for the Olympics, you still have to go there and prove that you're the man who deserves to win. It's like no other regatta.”
Scott missed out on selection at London 2012 to Sir Ben Ainslie and saw his compatriot defeat Denmark's Hogh Christensen to become the most successful Olympic sailor of all time. Since then Scott has been on a mission with a single goal in mind, “For three and a half years the gold medal in Rio has been the main driving force behind everything I've been doing, every day of the year.
“Like all athletes you've had highs and lows to get to this point.
“The lowest point was not qualifying for London. Being sat on the Nothe watching the racing going on wasn't the easiest thing to do but I'm glad that I stuck around and put myself through it because I saw what it was all about. Longer term a lot of positives have come from that. Highlights have been winning Olympic test events, winning World Championships, European Championships, beating people like Ben Ainslie. I'd like to be able to say in a few months' time I've got another one but we'll see.”
The fleet is jam packed with experienced athletes, all capable of performing on the grandest stage in sailing, the Olympic Games.
Hogh Christensen will be making his fourth Olympic appearance, France's Lobert will be out to upgrade his London 2012 bronze, Zbogar will be gunning for another podium finish and Postma will be wanting to right some wrongs.
At London 2012, as Postma sailed to the finish, he was primed to finish on the podium. But as he pushed harder his boom hit Dan Slater's (NZL) boat and he was forced to do penalty turns. As sailors passed him he slipped into fourth overall, missing out on a medal.
Four years on and the Dutchman is brimming with confidence. He knows what it takes at the Olympic Games, he knows how to put together an efficient campaign and most importantly, he knows what sailing in Rio is all about.
“I will be among the medal contenders,” expressed Postma. “I feel good about it. I have got to trust, but you have always got to see where you end up and how it will go.
“In the last two Games I felt I trained too much – just kept pushing. This time I am keeping calmer. I am getting more all-round and seeing the picture more clearly, so I can train more effectively. I feel my timing is good; much more comfortable than London.
“I like the conditions in Rio, but at the same time Rio is different every day – so you have to be open.”
Postma finished on the podium at the 2015 Olympic Test Event and took home a bronze from the 2016 World Championships. His form is good and will certainly be at the top of the pack in Rio.
Further contenders in the Finn include Olympic first-timers Jake Lilley (AUS) and Josh Junior (NZL), Croatia's Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic, Brazilian home-town favourite Jorge Zarif , Deniss Karpak (EST), Tapio Nirkko (FIN), London 2012 Star gold medallist Max Salminen (SWE) and USA's Caleb Paine.
The Finn sailors will commence racing at 13:00 local time on the Pao de Acucar racing area on Tuesday 9 August.
– Daniel Smith – World Sailing