SKUD sailors Jen French and JP Creignou won three of the ten races and never dropped out of the top five during the six day Paralympic sailing competition. Going into the last day, they were guaranteed a medal, though bronze was closer than the six point gap to gold. When racing was abandoned due to no wind, they climbed and rolled onto the second level of the podium—bringing home the only Olympic or Paralympic medal for the entire USSailing program in 2012.
Skipper Jen French, a resident of St. Petersburg, FL, was very happy with the event. "I think what made the regatta fun was the tight racing in the entire fleet. Hats off to Australia for their gold medal, and to the Canadians, who are our training partners. They did very well."
The two other US Paralympic teams posted solid scores earlier in the week, and the triplehanded Sonar team (Paul Callahan, Tom Brown and Bradley Johnson) was in third after day 4. But a shifty and tough three race day on what turned out to be the final day of competition cost both the Sonar team and 2.4M sailor Mark LeBlanc a place on the podium. Callahan/Brown/Johnson ended up 7th overall, while LeBlanc finished sixth.
A grading system of disabilities levels the playing field for the two and three person teams, while a complicated array of boat adaptationsallow sailors with a wide range of physical disabilities to manage the complicated controls on all the Paralympic boats. With the daily physical challenges of disabilities added to the already extreme pressure of Olympic and Paralympic competition, all of these athletes are truly awe-inspiring—both on and off the field of play. Congratulations to all.
For daily regatta reports and more info about the Paralympic team, visit the USSailing Olympic and Paralympic Team website.