The waves have settled in Weymouth as the 2012 Olympics have drawn to a close, and the Sperry Topsider U.S. Sailing Team will return to the states without the medals they hoped for. In the 16 days of racing, the Americans did not medal in any of the sailing events in which they competed, marking the first Olympics without any medals for U.S. sailors since the 1936 Games. Despite the outcome, the sailors can hold their heads high knowing that U.S. Sailing has come a long way in the last eight years, and that the 2016 Games in Rio will be another chance to prove themselves on the world sailing stage.
The majority of the U.S. competitors finished somewhere in the middle of their respective fleets, and a few sailors made the top ten.
One of Team USA's best shots for a medal was the Women's Elliott 6M team of Anna Tunnicliffe, Debbie Capozzi and Molly Vandemoer. In the round-robin stage of match racing, they won eight of their 11 races to qualify for the eight-team knockout stage as the fourth seed. In the quarterfinal round, the U.S. boat lost to fifth-seeded Finland, and the defeat dashed Team USA's medal hopes. Finland went on to win the bronze medal and Spain eventually won the event.
In the Star class, U.S. sailors Mark Mendelblatt and Brian Fatih sat in sixth place heading into the medal race on Sunday. However they had no chance at a medal, as they trailed third-place Sweden by an insurmountable 29-point margin. Mendelblatt and Fatih eventually finished seventh. The team from Sweden came back from third place and won gold in the medal race.
Finn sailor and U.S. sailing team captain Zach Railey could not build on his silver medal in the 2008 Games, as he finished 12th in Weymouth.
The women's 470 two-handed event was another event where it looked like the U.S. had a chance to medal early. Over the week of sailing, Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan had seven top-nine finishes in the 20 boat fleet, but their other results were towards the back of the fleet. Clark and Lihan qualified for the medal race, but finished 9th out of 20 boats in the final standings.
The Australian team proved themselves as the best Olympic sailors in 2012, as they won three golds and one silver. The British took home the most medals, with one gold and four silvers. Ben Ainslie of Great Britain became the most decorated Olympic sailor of all time, as he won his fourth gold in as many games.
Since many of the sailing events involve a mental challenge as well as a physical one, sailors can often sail well past their mid-30’s, and U.S. sailing fans can expect to see many returning team members at the 2016 games.
Team Leader Dean Brenner had this to say on his blog at the end of the Olympics:
“Thanks to everyone for their support during these last few weeks. As I wrote yesterday, I’m proud of our Olympians, regardless of the results. I stand with this team, no matter what. We all do.
Dean Brenner, Team Leader”
Event: U.S. Entrant (final ranking), first-place country
Men's RS-X: Robert Willis (22nd), Netherlands
Women's RS-X: Farrah Hall (20th), Spain
Men's Laser: Rob Crane (29th), Australia
Women's Laser Radial: Paige Railey (8th), China
Men's Finn: Zach Railey (12th), Great Britain
Men's 470: McNay/Biehl (14th), Australia
Women's 470: Clark/Lihan (9th), New Zealand
Men's 49er: Storck/Moore (15th), Australia
Men's Star: Mendelblatt/Fatih (7th), Sweden
Women's Elliott 6m: USA skippered by Anne Tunnicliffe (5th-- knocked out in quarterfinal), Spain