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Scuttlebutt News:

Reinventing US Olympic Sailing

By Dean Brenner, US Olympic Sailing Committee

Dean Brenner
(November 17, 2009) We’re at the end of the first year of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic quadrennium, and just like last time around, a large number of our top sailors spent the first year training and racing hard in preparation for the Games. And, also like last time around, the Olympic Sailing Committee (OSC) continues its efforts to revitalize the US Olympic Program. Over the course of the last four years, we made some significant and fundamental changes to our program. And last month we made yet another one, this time changing the time-honored process of qualifying for the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics’ Olympic classes.

Historically, US sailors could qualify for the national team without ever leaving the USA. The OSC designed a circuit of domestic events, almost always in the winter season in the southern USA. And for a long time this worked well. But now, serious Olympic-caliber training requires extensive international competition, and training exclusively in domestic events is not a recipe for international success. So we have been incentivizing our athletes to compete internationally for the last several years, and that has taken full root in our program, as all our funding is tied to international performance. No serious athlete even considers a domestic-only Olympic training schedule. Yet until now, we had maintained a domestic-only qualification schedule for our national team selection. It was a disconnect that we wanted to resolve.

Anna Tunnicliffe (L) of the U.S.celebrates with U.S. team leader Dean Brenner.
Anna Tunnicliffe (L) of the U.S. celebrates with U.S. team leader Dean Brenner after winning the gold medal at the Laser Radial class sailing competition during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Qingdao.
Click here for a link to the official selection criteria for the 2010 US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics’ Olympic classes.

And here’s a little explanation on what we are trying to achieve. Starting in 2010, selection to the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics will be based on the same international performance criteria that our funding model relies on. Athletes who compete and achieve a certain international standing will automatically qualify for placement on the team, without having to jump through additional hoops of domestic competition. They will have earned placement on the team through their international performances. However, the OSC also believes that someone starting out or coming out of retirement should be able to sail their way onto the team through a major domestic event, likely to be US SAILING’s Rolex Miami OCR each year. So we’ve captured both of these beliefs in the 2010 system, and I believe this a major step forward for our program.

Five years ago, the members of the OSC decided we needed to completely reinvent US Olympic Sailing, around a few key principles: international excellence, extreme physical fitness, and a squad-based training culture. We spent the last four years repairing some of the fundamental aspects of our program. And now we are well into the second phase of our plan to change the culture and the ethos of our national sailing program. We’re getting stronger every day, and I’m proud of the hard work and dedication of our athletes, staff, coaches and volunteers, and extremely thankful for the support of our sponsors and donors.

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