Olympic team has 'genuine prospects'

 

SAILINGMARKING THE six-week countdown to the London 2012 Olympic regatta at Weymouth, the Irish Sailing Association yesterday presented the full team line-up for the game, complete with two medals from last week’s Skandia Sail for Gold event, the final competition featuring all the main contenders on the actual course for the main event.

The two medal results – gold for Peter O’Leary and David Burrows in Star keelboat and bronze for Annalise Murphy in the Laser Radial single-hander – have again heightened expectations that the sailors will deliver in August.

ISA performance director James O’Callaghan readily acknowledges the result will raise hopes at home but cautions: “There are no guarantees in sport.”

Echoing the line taken by Providence Resources, the squad’s recently announced sponsor, O’Callaghan maintains that it’s still fair to say Ireland has “genuine prospects” at Weymouth again in six weeks’ time.

“We have one boat that is in the medal zone consistently (Star) and we have another (Laser Radial) that has the talent but has to work on consistency,” he said.

Murphy’s talent has shone through; like O’Leary she has medalled before in Weymouth but has suffered with the occasional bad race which has dropped her just outside the podium at other events.

Nevertheless, she otherwise still regularly posts top 10 or medal race results and over the past year, her bad race results have steadily improved, so eliminating these errors will be critical to her medal hopes at this Olympic regatta.

Meanwhile, work will continue on familiarisation with the venue for the whole team that has seen the strongest ever Irish squad result at the weekend – fifth by nation in terms of medal count.

That squad that was presented yesterday also included Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern in the 49er skiff who placed seventh overall last week, Ger Owens and Scott Flanigan in 470 who won the Silver fleet and James Espey in the Laser who was fourth in his Silver Fleet.

All five boats have been nominated to the Olympic Council of Ireland for London Games.

Meanwhile, one of the country’s longest standing veteran Olympians was also amongst the line-up announced yesterday.

Paralympian John Twomey from Kinsale Yacht Club will be competing in his fourth Games, once more in the Sonar class three-person keelboat. But he also counts no fewer than six previous appearances in the Discus event.

His regular crew Anthony Hegarty has been supplemented by Ian Costello, a former Kerry footballer who started sailing two years ago.

Attention will now switch to Kinsale that offers similar conditions to Weymouth with three-day training sessions planned for the next three weekends.

“The standard in the Sonar fleet has tightened up massively in recent years,” Twomey said yesterday. “The results are so close, you could almost walk from first to seventh without getting wet.”

The addition of a professional coach has been a massive morale boost as well as improving performance. Until the arrival of the ISA’s team sponsor, funding was limited to the Irish Sports Council Carding scheme plus whatever support was available from the Paralympic Council of Ireland.

Last year, Twomey’s team placed seventh at the world championships so will aim for the podium in September.