by Jerome Samson
This is the year of the Rio Olympics, the first to ever take place in South America, and we should all be talking about samba, feijoada and caipirinhas. Oh, and sports too! But the headlines from Rio are much gloomier these days: an economy on the verge of collapse, rampant government corruption, labor tensions, drastic cost-cutting from organizers, unchecked pollution, and now the zika outbreak! Everyone is burying their head in the sand and kicking the proverbial can down the road, hoping that everything will turn out perfectly fine in the end.
And while the world is trying to solve those problems by issuing one more press release, the athletes have little choice but to have faith in the system and control what they can: work hard, peak at the right time, and get ready to deliver their best performance under the most pressure they’ve ever had to deal with in their lives.
For our US windsurfers, the road to Rio has three crucial pit stops: 1) qualify the country; 2) qualify as an individual athlete; 3) secure approval from the US Olympic Committee.
1) Qualify the country. Status: complete!
This was far from a foregone conclusion, as only the top 36 nations are invited to the Olympics for the RS:X Men, and only the top 26 for the RS:X Women. So, big props to the US athletes who made it happen!
It was a long road in and of itself, with narrowly missed opportunities along the way, but it all came together in the end. Farrah Hall clinched the spot when she finished first alternate at the 2015 RS:X Worlds in Oman, and when that first alternate spot became available after the Melbourne World Cup (the Olympic qualifier for Oceania) in December. Pedro Pascual clinched it for the men at the Miami World Cup (the Olympic qualifier for North America) in January. And the US team has enough depth this quad that had Farrah and Pedro not delivered, Marion Lepert and Carson Crain would have clinched the spots as well with their performance at those key events!
2) Qualify the individual. Status: half-way there!
The individual qualifier (remember: only one ‘boat’ goes to the Games in each of the Olympic sailing classes) is a two-pronged affair: do well in Miami, do well in Palma (Spain) at the end of March (it’s also the Olympic qualifier for Europe), add up the points and come out on top!
This sounds like a lot of traveling to qualify for the US team, but the venues this time around are much more accessible to US athletes than they were four years ago, when US contenders had to travel to Weymouth (UK) and Perth (Australia) to earn a spot on the team! And Miami and Palma, year after year, offer the kind of conditions and international competition that will test everyone’s mettle. With the Miami World Cup already in the books, here are the half-way standings for the US selection (the athlete with the fewest points is leading):
In case of a tie in points after the Palma standings have been added to the scores above, the spot will go to the athlete with the best finish in Palma.
3) Secure approval from the USOC. Status: pending!
This should be pretty straightforward. Once the steps above are completed, US Sailing will hand the names of the selected athletes to the US Olympic Committee. The USOC recognizes all the hard work that goes into an Olympic campaign, as well as the high bar set by US Sailing to qualify for the Games in the sailing classes, and thus it hasn’t traditionally denied candidates, but it’s important to note that those guys have the final say.
So the tension is palpable! The road to Rio now goes through Palma, March 25 – April 2, and you’ll be able to follow all the action on the US Windsurfing Facebook page: www.facebook.com/uswindsurfing/.
If you’ve been saving your vocal chords (and Facebook likes!) until now, this is the time to cheer for your favorite contenders – and to pray that Rio will turn the tide, defy the odds and deliver the Games we’ve all been dreaming of!