On their third consecutive try at winning an Olympic medal in the Tornado class, John Lovell (New Orleans, La.) and Charlie Ogletree (Houston, Texas/Columbia, N.C.) won the silver in Athens. One last race today had been their one last opportunity to pass Austria’s gold medallists (and defending gold medallists from Sydney) Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher in the overall standings, but it was not meant to be. Lovell and Ogletree had been assured of no less than a silver medal going into today, and that is what they will proudly take home.
“We had a good shot at it but knew it would be tough,” said Lovell. “We just didn’t know how tough it would be. We tried to get Austria behind us, but they broke away and got to the right side of the course, at the critical point in the race when the right came in big time. We then had to take big chances and dropped back. It was a done deal. The way they sailed today, there was no chance to beat them.” Lovell and Ogletree fell to tenth in the race, their worst race taken as a throwout in the 11-race series, while Austria climbed through the fleet to finish first.
Ogletree, who has been sailing since 1993 with Lovell, a “great friend” with
whom he shares the exact same birthdate, year and all, said that initially the two were disappointed about losing the gold. Upon returning to the Agios Kosmas Sailing Center in Greece, however, the melancholy turned to delight.
“Our heads were down a little, but the moment we got ashore and started talking to the media and friends and family we started realizing how great it is to conclude with a medal after trying in Savannah and Sydney. It’s a dream come true.”
“I’m thrilled for them,” said the US Sailing Team’s Head Coach Gary Bodie (Hampton, Va.). “They’ve always been players, but this Spring they really started putting it together and won the silver medal at the 2004 Tornado World Championships. They had the package that was necessary.”
Also fighting for a medal position today were Star sailors Paul Cayard (Kentfield, Calif.) and Phil Trinter (Lorain, Ohio/Port Washington, N.Y.). In fourth going into today’s final race, with an outside shot at bronze or silver, they “got tangled up with Spain” for a bad start. The rest of the race went just as badly; the 16th they took was their worst finish yet out of 11 races and it landed them in fifth overall for the regatta.
“We tried to make it work, but it almost seemed like a bad joke,” said Cayard, who accompanied the Olympic Sailing Team to the Los Angeles Games 20 years ago as an alternate and has since established himself as one of the most recognizable sailors on the planet. “Everything we tried didn’t work and we got a serious distance behind. Right now it’s hard not to focus on the opportunities that were there throughout this regatta and the unfortunate fact that we didn’t take advantage of them.”
Cayard figures that only half the races they sailed were in conditions for which they had trained and the “difficult” random winds-like today’s-were what got the best of his team. “We started off in the groove but then the third race it started unraveling. I’m disappointed I didn’t sail the regatta of my life. I’d rather have a gold medal. But I’m old enough and have been through the emotional part of all this in sailing, with the America’s Cup and other events, that I know that in a week, a month, it slowly fades away.”
Trinter considered the emotional letdown to be a natural part of being an athlete. “You’ve got to remember, it’s still the greatest thing in sailing to be here,” he said. “The Olympics are something special, and to get here is a great accomplishment and honor.”
This was the final of 15 competition days at the 2004 Olympic Regatta in Athens, where nine Olympic classes (11 divisions) have competed on the Saronic Gulf.
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