Sailing: Team GB's Paul Goodison has gold in mind


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The Independent Online

Fighting back on every front, Britain’s sailors are lining themselves up to be in medal contention, not least defending gold medallist Paul Goodison in the singlehanded Laser.

Needing pain killers to counter a back injury, plus three sessions of physiotherapy the night before, he went on to the race track with some more pain killers, scored a fourth and a ninth, and ended in sixth overall after being 12th the day before.

“I’m feeling a lot better than I was this time yesterday. They spent a lot of time last night putting me back together, so my mind was a lot more focused on decision-making,” he said.

“Hopefully I can spend the rest day putting myself back together, so in the second half of the regatta we can fire on all cylinders.” He is chasing the Australian favourite Tom Slingsby, who himself is a point behind the leader, Pavlos Kontides of Cyprus.

Goodison has suffered a disc problem before and described races five and six as “pretty character-building stuff”. His first goal is to stay well up the top 10, then fight for a medal if it is in range, similarly for the gold. “You only get one shot every four years and you have got to give it your all,”.

Still lying fourth after six races for the Laser Radial is Alison Young who could take some consolation from the fact that she posted her worst result, 11th, in that sixth race as the overall leader, Ireland’s Annalise Murphy, was suffering an even worse 19th.

The 25-year old, originally from Bewdley, Worcestershire, has been on an upwards trajectory which has seen her quietly made her a medal prospect under the coaching in Weymouth of former Olympian Hugh Styles.

She has a no-nonsense, almost self-deprecatory style, but she is fourth overall going into a day off for both Laser fleets. “You just get on with whatever there is out there. To be honest, you just get what your given,” sums up her very pragmatic attitude.

A better day for the 49er skiff pair of Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes, who scored a fourth and a second, discarded the 18th they suffered in Tuesday’s capsize, and moved up to fifth overall.

“We didn’t sail any better today, we just didn’t make any mistakes,” said Morrison. “We didn’t change anything or allow ourselves to get too stressed about yesterday. We just carried on with what we know we can do. We know we’re pretty good at sailing 49ers. Yes, it was a great day but it didn’t make a great deal of difference in the overall scheme of things.”

In his much quieter style, Nick Dempsey, who would so much like to have his own Olympic gold medal to go with wife Sarah’s two, won the tightest of finishes over Byron Kokalanis of Greece in his second race of the day and that was enough to put him up to third overall after four of the 10 races which find the top 10 to go into the double points-scoring medal decider.

But, despite feeling slightly more comfortable with the racecourse under the spectator area on the Nothe, he was happier with the thought that his next six races will be in the less tricky conditions of the harbour, waters that, as a local resident, he knows well.

“The Nothe race course is very, very tricky,” he said. “It’s very easy to come unstuck on it. I was always concerned about that. You want it to be as fair as possible. Today the racing was fair. You just want an even playing field.”

He also said that he thought that Paul Goodison had been feeling a little more comfortable with the back pain but the mood generally in the British camp was “fantastic. Everyone is very upbeat and concentrated and it’s still a fantastic team to be part of. The spirit is good.”

Today the Finn singlehanders and Star keelboats return to the fray after a day off with Ben Ainslie, chasing his fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal, lying second, and needing to establish some sort of supremacy over Denmark’s Jonas Högh Christensen.

Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson will be hoping for continued fresh conditions to consolidate their lead over Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada of Brazil, and the men in the 470 dinghy class contesting their opening pair of races.