Promise of Percy bodes well for Sydney

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The official line is likely to be cautious, but Britain's Olympic medal hopes are high after a week of the Chernikeeff Olympic trials, which finish here today. There is still everything to play for in the 49er class - where Paul Brotherton and Mo Gray have a two-point lead over Ian Barker and Simon Hiscocks with two races to go - and the men's 470 dinghy. With one race remaining, Nick Rogers and Jo Glanfield are tied with Chris Draper and Dan Newman.

The women's 470 spot will be decided at the class's world championship in Hungary next month and the Tornado at its European championships in Italy next month, but the rest should be decided at a selectors' meeting tonight, with the British Olympic Association promising swift ratification.

Of the other seven berths, three had already been filled, the 1996 silver medallist Ben Ainslie looking to go one better in the Laser, Shirley Robertson, ninth and fourth at the last two attempts, sailing a notch higher in the Europe, and the new pairing of Ian Walker and Mark Covell causing some illustrious heads to turn in the Star keel boat. All three classes could produce a medal in Sydney, and the goal of the Royal Yachting Association is also three medals - they were responsible for two in the Atlanta Games.

However, there are at least two more classes in which expectations of a medal are far from being over-optimistic. In the three-man Soling class Andy Beadsworth, Barry Parkin and Richard Sydenham had a slightly bumpy take-off at the beginning of the round-robin stages of the match racing when they were twice pushed hard by Britain's newest hope in that discipline, Andy Green. But they quickly reached cruising height and were unbeaten in both rounds robin and the semi-final best of seven. Last night they suffered their first loss and were 1-1 in the best-of-nine final against Ian Williams. "Things were really shifty in that last race," explained Beadsworth. "We are still quite happy and, weather permitting, are confident about wrapping up the job tomorrow." In Savannah Beadsworth was fourth; this year his build-up has been purposeful and the reshuffled trio have been beating the best in the world.

No such hiccups for the 24-year-old Iain Percy in the Finn. He put stomach problems and a stress fracture of his right foot behind him to blitz the opposition, winning all his races bar one, in which he finished second. He has defeated all the top men in the world in the past year, and will have the chance to do so again when the Finn Gold Cup is held here in June.

Of the windsurfers, the 19-year-old Nick Dempsey earned his ticket with two races to spare. He may not be ready for a medal this time, but the top 10 is a realistic target.

"It would be nice to have five or six medal hopes, but we know that the difficult job is to turn those chances into reality," John Derbyshire, the RYA's Olympic manager, said. "We have five months to work on that and a very well thought out programme for each of the classes in the build up to Sydney."

CHERNIKEEFF OLYMPIC TRIALS (Weymouth): 49er class (after 14 races, 2 discards): 1 P Brotherton and M Gray 27pts; 2 I Barker and S Hiscocks 29; 3 T Robinson and Z Elliot 37. 470 (10, 2): 1 N Rogers and J Glanfield 16; 2 C Draper and D Newman 16; 3 G Vials and M Leask 25. 470 women (10, 2): 1 B Raggatt and S Webb 45; 2 H Lucas and S Parkin 46; 3 S Rees-Jones and I Leask 66. Finn (9, 1): 1 I Percy 8; 2 J Lea 30; 3 C Cumbley 35. Tornado (10, 2): 1 H Styles and A May 13; 2 R Wilson and W Howden 16; 3 T Reid and T Hewitt 24. Soling Match Racing: Semi-finals: A Beadsworth, B Parkin, R Sydenham (United Airlines) bt D Bedford, A Razmilovic, N Razmilovic 4-0; I Williams, M Nicholls, A Hemmings (South West RDA) bt A Green, C Murray, J Turner (British Racing Green) 4-2. Final (best of nine): Beadsworth, Parkin, Sydenham 1 Williams, Nicholls, Hemmings 1.