Parks plays up British sailors' chances

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The Independent Online

An "excited" Stephen Park remained cautious about medal prospects for Britain's sailors on the eve of a competition likely to begin in testing Meltemi wind conditions today. He is sticking, mantra-like, to his stated goal of three medals, one of each colour, from the 11 classes in which Britain is competing.

The three golds and two silvers which the British team garnered in Sydney was always going to be a hard act to follow. But Park, the Olympic manager, could hardly keep himself buttoned up. "I would not be disappointed with three," he said, "But I would not be surprised if it were more than three."

He told the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, the same during a visit to the compound at Agios Kosmas yesterday and took the opportunity to emphasise just how much the extra funding for world-class performance squads, secured recently for the next four years, meant to "doing the job properly".

Sailing is one of the four "strand one" sports - the others are athletics, rowing and cycling - and continues to deliver top results at the top events.

None more so than the man seen almost as a banker for British Olympic success, Ben Ainslie, who goes into action today determined to add a gold medal in the bigger of the two single-handers, the Finn, to the silver in 1996, and gold in 2000, which he won in the Laser.

Also in action today are the Yngling trio of Shirley Robertson, Sarah Webb and Sarah Ayton, and the two 470 dinghy pairs of Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield, Christina Bassadone and Katherine Hopson. As a consequence, none of them took part in the opening ceremony parade. Nor did those who start racing tomorrow, the windsurfers Nick Dempsey and Natasha Sturges, the women's single-hander Laura Baldwin, and the men's singlehander, Paul Goodison.

The events are spread over the two weeks, the first medals will be won next Saturday - including Ainslie's event - the same day that Iain Percy and Steve Mitchell start their series in the Star keelboat and the Tornado catamaran pair of Leigh McMillan and Mark Bulkeley kick off their campaign.

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