ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year
Dun Laoghaire, Ireland
Lijia Xu, Optimist Worlds 2002 - Olympic Gold in 2012
Yesterday, Lijia Xu, Laser Radial Gold Medallist at London 2012, expressed her delight at becoming only the second Asian athlete to be crowned ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year and spoke of her passion for the sport, "Sailing has given me the chance to chase my dreams and the stage to show my potential. It has provided me with the opportunity to see, feel and explore the world. Sailing leads me to a path of a better life, a life full of vitality, excitement and joyful experiences."
In August, Lijia became the first Chinese, and indeed Asian, sailor to win an Olympic Gold medal in a dinghy sailing boat. In 2006, just 4 years after leaving the Optimist class, she became the 2006 Laser Radial World champion after just eight months in the classs and 2 years later, in 2008, she became the bronze medallist at the Beijing Olympics.
Lijia last night demonstrated that she was a real ambassador for the sport of sailing and a very worthy recipient of the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year title.
The other recipient of an award last night was another former Optimist sailor, four-time Olympic Gold medallist Ben Ainslie. On receiving the award of ISAF World Sailor of the Year Ben said, "Winning the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year award is a huge honour, especially for everyone who has helped me. There is a huge team in the background from family, friends, coaches and sponsors who helped make it happen. It is a huge honour to be part of such a group of exceptional sailors who were put forward for this award."
It is the fourth time that Ainslie has been named ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, following titles gained in 1998, 2002 and 2008. Ainslie is the most successful Olympic sailor of all time. The 35-year old's achievement at London 2012 elevated him to five Olympic medals (four gold, one silver), surpassing Rolex Testimonee Paul Elvstrøm (DEN), winner of four gold medals between 1948 and 1960.
End of article - Go to top of page
We congratulate our Olympic athletes!!
It has been an inspiring summer of Olympic sport and we congratulate all the former Optimist sailors who participated in the 2012 Olympics. Of the 209 boat skippers 79% were known former Optimist sailors and 59% had sailed in Optimist international events. Only 18 (9%) are known not to have sailed Optimists.
Of the medalist skippers 20 out of 24 are former Optimist sailors, all but two of them former internationals. Three of the other four were all eastern Australians, mostly from a generation when the Optimist was not sailed competitively in that area. Four of the Olympic medalists, Lijia Xu (CHN), Hannah Mills (GBR), Lucas Calabrese (ARG) and Lisa Westerhof (NED) are former Optimist Worlds gold medalists but many of the others did not score particularly well in IODA events, showing that this is not a reason to stop sailing.
Laser Radial medallists from left to right: Marit Brouwmeester NED, Lijia Xu CHN, Evi van Acker BEL
Among the participants who qualified their countries for the first time in specific events 10 of the known 12 were also ex-Optimists. See article below.
In common with most "skill" sports Olympic sailors start to compete internationally at an early age and IODA fulfills its objective of providing a framework within which to do so.
For a complete list of former Optimist sailors at the 2012 Olympics
For the under 16 sailing history of the 2012 Olympic medallists
Qualification for Olympics decided
Many of our young skippers dream of qualifying for the Olympics. Probably around 150 of the 207 boat helms will be former Optimist sailors. IODA congratulates them all but in particular the following ‘first timers’:
Jesse & Zan Kirkland (BER): the only nation to qualify for the first time in the 49er Class. Older brother Zan in 1998 was a member of the first Bermudan team to enter the Optimist Worlds. He was followed by Jesse who, starting at the age of eleven in 1999, sailed a record five Worlds finishing with a silver medal in 2003.
Benjamin Grez (CHI): one of only two nations to qualify for the first time in the 470 Class. In Optimists he won the silver medal at the IODA Worlds of 2007. At age 19 he will be one of the youngest male sailors at the Games.
In the Laser Radial, Philipine van Aanholt (AHO) and Mayumi Roller (ISV) became the first women ever to qualify their countries. Both sailed in the 2004 and 2005 IODA Worlds. Manami Doi (JPN) who sailed in the IODA Asians of 2008 was the first to qualify her country in the Radial.
Philipine van Aanholt
In the Laser Class: Andrew Lewis is the first Olympic sailor from Trinidad & Tobago since 1964. He sailed in the IODA Worlds of 2002 and 2003.
Youssef Akrout (TUN) is the first sailor to qualify his country in a dinghy class. In Optimists he graduated from sailing in the second IODA African championship in 2002 to the Worlds of 2003.
Keerati Bualong (THA) is also the first to qualify his country in a dinghy class in recent times. In Optimists he participated in the ASEAN championship of 2004. He is sponsored by Al Chandler, former president of IODA and himself a keen Laser sailor.
Andrey Quintero (COL) ) is also the first sailor to qualify his country in a dinghy class. He participated in the 1998 IODA South Americans.
Ricardo Montemayor (MEX) was the first to qualify in the Laser Class. He sailed in the IODA Worlds of 2003 and 2005.
We wish them all well.
End of article - Go to top of page
Lots of medals to ex-Optimist sailors.
The recently concluded Pan American Games saw former Optimist sailors achieve a host of medals.
In the Laser Class all six medals went to ex-Optimists. Julio Alsogaray (ARG), gold in the men's event, had taken bronze in the Optimist Worlds of 1994, Guatemala's Juan I. Maegli and Tania Elias Calles (MEX) were former Optimist Worlds participants while Cecilia Carranza Saroli (ARG), Matias del Solar (CHI) and Paige Railey (USA) had also sailed the boat.
But results were not confined to the Olympic Laser Class. Sunfish Class victor Matheus Dellagnello (BRA) had placed 4th in the 2001 IODA Worlds, and bronze medallist Francisco Renna (ARG) was member of the 2003 and 2005 World Team Race winning teams. In the Hobies 16-year old Optimist Worlds veteran Victor Aponte crewed to gold for the legendary Enrique Figueroa (PUR) while bronze medallist Jason Hess was another of the first generation of Guatemalan Optimist sailors (GUA 6 at the millennium Worlds!).
Even in the J/24s winner Mauricio Oliveira (BRA), better known as a Tornado Class Olympian, had also sailed Optimists almost a quarter of a century ago.
In the photos below: Julio Alsogaray.
End of article - Go to top of page
ISAF YOUTH WORLDS
July 7 to 16
FIVE of the six gold medallist skippers at the 2011 ISAF World Youth Championships had previously sailed at Optimist World Championships.
Remarkably two of them, Carlos Roble (ESP) in the 29er and Martin Lowy (BRA) in the SL16 only left the Optimist class seven months ago, having participated in the Optimist Worlds at the end of 2010.
|Carlos Robles||Martin Lowy|
Historically it is quite rare to win gold at the ISAF event in the first year of participation. The other three winners this year, Lara Vadlau (AUT) and Jordi Xammar (ESP) in the 420s and Maxime Mazard (FRA) in the Laser had taken the more usual 3-4 years to progress from the under-16 Optimist event to winning the under-19 ISAF championship. Lara’s crew Tanja Frank was in fact her team-mate from the 2008 Austrian team.
In total at least 16 of the 18 medallist skippers were former Optimist sailors, 10 of them having participated in IODA Worlds. Sailing is a sport for life and the Optimist prepares young sailors well, be it single handed, double-handed or multi hull, Olympic competition, Volvo Ocean Race or Americas Cup.