Brits rule waves again

Updated: August 29, 2004, 10:20 AM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Britannia rules the waves again -- at least in Olympic sailing.

And the Americans are lagging behind.

Britain led the medals count at the Athens regatta with five, including two golds. The Americans won just two, a gold and a silver

The reasons are pretty simple -- money and experience. The British team receives funding from the national lottery. American sailors are generally on their own.

"We have a lot of sailors who work very hard, but obviously we don't have the same amount of financial resources available to our sailors, or to us to help our sailors, as other nations are able to have,'' said Fred Hagedorn, a U.S. Sailing Association official. "That of course impacts the amount of time the sailors are able to spend sailing as opposed to having to do fund-raising or have a regular job.''

Every member of the British team was either a past medalist, a current or previous world champion or at least a top-10 finisher at the worlds.

Not surprisingly, the American crews who won medals in Greece had a good deal of Olympic experience.

Paul Foerster of Rockwall, Texas, and Kevin Burnham of Miami Beach won the 470 gold medal with a class match-race victory over a British crew. It was Foerster's fourth Olympics and Burnham's third. Both had previously won silver medals.

John Lovell of New Orleans and Charlie Ogletree of Houston won the silver in the Tornado class. It was their third Olympics together, and first medal.

Having Olympic experience is "incredibly important,'' Lovell said. "Just going through security and all those different things, if you don't have experience at that, it can really throw you off your game. It doesn't take much to throw someone off their game at this level.''

Strangely, two of the best-funded U.S. crews didn't do well.

America's Cup star Paul Cayard of Kentfield, Calif., who spent more than $100,000 of his own money on his campaign in the Star class, and crew Phil Trinter of Lorain, Ohio, finished fifth.

The Yngling crew led by skipper Carol Cronin of Jamestown, R.I., secured a $244,000, two-year sponsorship from Atkins, one of the companies behind the low-carb diet craze. But after beating several higher-ranked crews in the U.S. trials, they finished 10th at the Olympics.

But, Cayard, Trinter and Cronin and her crew, Liz Filter of Stevenville, Md., and Nancy Haberland of Annapolis, Md., were all in their first Olympics.

Cayard has been in the America's Cup five times, and there's no circus quite like that. Still, his one-time cup nemesis, Torben Grael of Brazil, won the Star gold here, his record fifth Olympic sailing medal.

"I think that what we're seeing change is that the amount of time it takes to have a successful Olympic campaign has gone from being a typical four-year process to being something that's closer to eight to 10 years,'' Hagedorn said. "Unless it's a new event, odds are it's not going to have people who haven't been campaigning for a while.''

This was likely the last Olympics for the 40-year-old Foerster.

"That's up to my wife,'' he said. "I'm pretty sure it's negatory this time.''

Burnham, the oldest member of the U.S. sailing team, said he'll likely have an Olympic campaign in the Tornado class with Morgan Reeser for 2008. They won the 470 silver medal together in 1992.

"I don't feel 47,'' Burnham said. "I'm young. I don't really want to stop. I wish Paul wanted to go again. But he's got a newborn baby. I've got to give him a year or two'' to decide.

Also in this regatta, Israeli windsurfer Gal Fridman won his country's first Olympic gold medal ever.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press