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America's Olympic Contenders
(February 8, 2007) The 2007 US Sailing Team is comprised of the top three in each class - a change from previous years, wherein the top five had received the recognition that the team status provides, and the benefits that are afforded team members. Selection for the 2007 team was based on performance in designated events, and with the Olympics next year, the 2007 group will be the final US Team before the trials are held this fall. Scuttlebutt provides here a class-by-class look at the current crop of America’s Olympic contenders:
This will be the first Olympics for the Laser Radial, and the class will likely garner significant attention at the US trials. Competition will be fierce to merely attend the trials, as only the top 22 will get bids. Once there, however, expect it to be the Anna Tunnicliffe - Paige Railey show, as these two have been trading places in the international spotlight through much of the last two years, and are both strong contenders for a medal in China. Tunnicliffe has remained the most consistent of the two through the past year, largely due to Railey’s recent struggles with kinetic violations, and it has earned Tunnicliffe the ISAF #3 ranking announced this week (both Anna and Paige held the #1 ranking in 2006). There is a strong crop below these two, with third ranked Sarah Lihan leading the charge, plus 1994 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Danielle Brennan Myrdal will be joining the fray to possibly challenge at the Trials.
* 2004 Olympic rep: Meg Galliard (14th place in Europe)
By far, this is America’s most popular Olympic class, and it will be a challenge to simply be among the top 33 to get invited to the trials. However, like the Laser Radial class, the focus for the on-the-water action will be between two sailors: Andrew Campbell and Brad Funk. In the 2004 trials, Funk was third and Campbell was seventh, with Campbell just edging out Funk in last year’s pre-trials. Funk made it to the medal round in the Miami OCR, and both are bound to be training hard until the trials. There are likely few who can hang with these two in a breeze, so getting an early lead in the trials will be imperative if the conditions are strong. The US Sailing Team rankings for this class will not be decided until after the Midwinters East later this month, but currently Kurt Taulbee is ranked third behind Campbell and Funk.
* 2004 Olympic rep: Mark Mendelblatt (8th place)
Since becoming an Olympic class in 2000, the US has maintained a strong international presence, gaining a bronze in Sydney (2000) and a fifth in Athens (2004). The deck has been shuffled for 2008, with top ranked skipper Morgan Larson returning after being runner-up in the 2000 trials, and now teaming with Pete Spaulding, who crewed for Tim Wadlow in the 2004 games. The 49er was one of only three classes at the Miami OCR where the US had two teams in the medal race, and it will likely come down to either Morgan Larson/ Pete Spaulding or second ranked Tim Wadlow/ Chris Rast winning the trials. Third ranked Dalton Bergan/ Zack Maxam, who were the top ranked US team at the 2006 Worlds, are the only outside threat amongst the American sailors.
* 2004 Olympic rep: Tim Wadlow/ Pete Spaulding (5th place)
John Lovell started campaigning in the class for the 1992 Games, and along with crew Charlie Ogletree, the duo have been the US rep in 1996 and 2000, and then won the silver medal in 2004. This is likely the thinnest US field since Lovell joined the class, which might be the cause for their slumping performance in recent international events. However, they have traditionally come on strong near the end of each quad, and have only second ranked Robbie Daniel/ Hunter Stunzi representing a significant challenge between them and a chance to improve on their performance in Athens. Third ranked team is Don Thinschmidt/ Drew Wierda.
* 2004 Olympic rep: John Lovell/ Charlie Ogletree (Silver medal)
The Finn is enjoying resurgence in the US, with significant growth in Southern California, site of what is expected to be a light air and very variable trials event. Plenty of folks are jumping in late for the event, which might provide enough markers to confuse the final standings. Top ranked Zach Railey is the only contender that has been somewhat respectable internationally, with long-time Finn sailors Geoff Ewenson and Darrell Peck, at second and third rank respectively, providing some class experience but will likely need the potentially difficult sailing conditions at the trials to get past Railey.
* 2004 Olympic rep: Kevin Hall (11th place)
The era of Mark Reynolds and US Olympic domination in the Star have passed, with the 2007 team providing more questions than answers. While top ranked John Dane/ Austin Sperry made their mark by winning last year’s Bacardi Cup, the teams of Andrew MacDonald/ Brian Fatih and John MacCausland/ R. Schofield (second and third ranked, respectively) are largely on the team due to their consistent sailing in attending all ranking regattas. Missing from this list are skippers George Szabo (top ranked in ISAF standings), and Andy Horton and Mark Mendelblatt, who both are involved in America’s Cup campaigns. With the return of Horton and Mendelblatt, the trials could become very interesting, as both have shown the ability to compete with the best in the World. In 2006, Mendelblatt won Kiel Week and the Star European Championship, while Horton finished 4th at the Worlds and won the Gold at the Test Event in China. As in the past, this class will present the greatest depth of talent for the trials this fall.
* 2004 Olympic rep: Paul Cayard/ Phil Trinter (5th place)
Activity in this class has gotten so sparse that the US was forced to make some unprecedented decisions, such as canceling their pre-trials last fall, and creating a selection system for their Olympic representative that relied on performance in certain major events rather than within a controlled trials event. For those that are campaigning, the US remains very strong with past world champion and top ranked Sally Barkow/ Carrie Howe/ Debbie Capozzi winning the Miami OCR, and the return of 2004 Olympic rep Carol Cronin, who is now teamed with crew Kim Couranz and Margaret Podlich. Cronin’s team has yet to find the consistency needed to topple Barkow, but historians will recall that it was Cronin that surprised all comers to get the nod for the last Olympics.
* 2004 Olympic rep: Carol Cronin/ Liz Filter/ Nancy Haberland (10th place)
This class will be a two-horse race through to the trials, with the top ranked team of Mikee Anderson-Mitterling/ David Hughes consistently holding a small edge over the second ranked team of Stu McNay/ Graham Biehl. Interestingly, it was Anderson-Mitterling and Biehl who teamed up for a 2004 campaign, and gave eventual gold medallists Paul Foerster/ Kevin Burnham a scare in the trials. The third ranked Justin Law/ Michael Miller are a new team, and while they should not be a significant threat at these trials, they will hopefully continue working toward 2012.
* 2004 Olympic rep: Paul Foerster/ Kevin Burnham (Gold medal)
This class was one of the few where the US had two teams in the medal race at the Miami OCR. The third ranked team of Molly Carapiet/ Molly O'Bryan has yet to threaten Amanda Clark/ Sarah Mergenthaler and Erin Maxwell/ Isabelle Kinsolving, first and second respectively, and it will be likely be a very close contest at the trials between these top two teams. Amanda and Sarah were second in the 2004 trials, with Amanda also having campaigned a Europe for 2000. Isabelle Kinsolving, who crewed for Katie McDowell in the 2004 games, joins Erin’s second effort, where she had teamed with Jen Morgan for third in the 2004 trials.
* 2004 Olympic rep: Katie McDowell/ Isabelle Kinsolving (5th place)
RS:X Men and Women
It has been a long time since the US has been a threat in the boardsailing classes (anybody remember Scott Steele, Mike Gebhardt, Annie Gardner Nelson, and Lanee Butler), and the 2008 Olympics isn’t going to be any different. If top ranked Ben Barger maintains his form, he will be advancing to the games past teammates Bob Willis and Mark Powell. As for the women’s field, the US rep could be anyone of the top three: Nancy Rios, Karen Marriott, or Farrah Hall.
* 2004 Olympic reps: Peter Wells (28th) and Lanee Butler Beashal (16th)