Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Did late 49er selection cost GBR an Olympic medal?


Britain’s sailing selectors made their decisions early in seven of the 10 Olympic  classes but the 49er crew of Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes were given the nod just three months ago, which may have put their medal hopes in jeopardy.

The wait was in anticipation of a no-brainer contender emerging from the six teams battling for recognition and while John Pink and Rick Peacock lodged a convincing argument for selection, along with Dave Evans and Ed Powys, none of the teams seized their opportunity so the selectors hung on...and on.

In May, they finally announced Morrison and Rhodes as their men which came as a surprise since we had been lulled into thinking the trials would extend at least until Skandia Sail for Gold in June.  

It was a decision that many argue, could have been taken 12 or even 24 months before especially since their experience of competing in an Olympics carried so much weight in the selection process for a home games.

It would have given them more time to prepare though all of the contenders concede that the level of competition resulting from the contest had been raised dramatically which had been good for them all, irrespective of who earned the qualification.

“Equipment wise it has been last minute com because we have had three boats to test from different manufacturers, a few masts and five sets of sails,” said Morrison.

“ If you talk to Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy they have been doing that since last October whereas we have been doing it since May so we have had to work our behinds off. 

“But we feel ready to go out and do well. We were the last team to beat Nathan and Iain in a World Cup regatta so we know we can do it. 

“It would have been nice to have done what Nathan and Iain have done and won three or four events in the run up to here but as we proved in China, it is one week out of your life and a chance to get everything you have dreamed of and trained for and you have to grab it.”

Morrison and Rhodes  posted two fourth places in World Cup events since they were selected which they are pleased with, especially when added to their defeat over out and out gold medal favourites from Australia Nathan Outterridge and Iain Jensen at the Delta Lloyd ISAF World Cup Regatta in May 2011.

The demons from flunking in Beijing 2008, where they went into their first Olympic Games as favourites and finished ninth, have now been banished though only after a good deal of soul searching which they say, served to strengthen their partnership ahead of the 2012 campaign.

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