Wave of optimism for London

Sailing has used the successes of Ireland’s amateur boxers as the template to raise standards within the sport.

That includes the boldly stated goal of winning a medal at the Olympics, and with two campaigners claiming victory at the Sail For Gold regatta in Weymouth last week, it is far from a fanciful notion.

Peter O’Leary and David Burrows took the top podium spot in the Star class at the Olympic venue, while Annalise Murphy secured bronze in the Laser Radial. With 49ers Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern claiming a career-high seventh, and 470 pairing Ger Owens and Scott Flanigan winning the silver fleet race, Ireland hold a very strong hand for London.

Irish Sailing Association high performance director James O’Callaghan said: “I’d love to be able to say we’ll get the exact same results [at the Olympics as last weekend] but every team was targeting that event.

“Everybody who is going to the Games was at that event and wanted to make a statement. It was a successful dress rehearsal.

“[In the Star] the Brazilian and British teams had started to get a pattern of domination in the class, where it was either one or the other that was winning the gold or silver. For the boys to break that pattern, at this particular point in the season, it makes a very strong statement and gives them a lot of confidence. It puts a little bit of doubt in the other guys’ minds too.”

A member of sailing’s Olympic steering group rang O’Callaghan on Monday to joke that he must like pressure, as last week’s results have undoubtedly raised expectations amongst the general public.

It has changed nothing for him or the sailors though, as they look to bridge a gap that goes back to Moscow in 1980, when David Wilkins and James Wilkins won silver in the Flying Dutchman class.

“Every sport needs a medal. It’s been 32 years since we won a medal. We’ve had some very good performances since then. David Burrows, who will be competing in his fourth Olympics, was top 10 in Sydney.

“The Olympics is just one event but it happens to be the most important event in our sport. You can’t get away from that.

“We’ve been performing well at world championships, European championships and World Cups but it’s all geared towards Olympics.

“We’ve been very up front. Our goal is to come away with a medal.

“We have an ambitious programme. We have ambitious sailors. We don’t know if we will get a medal but that’s what we’re aiming for.

“Boxing is a sport that delivers medals. If you look at their trajectory, they started getting medals at Europeans, the Worlds; they started to consistently deliver across their programme.

“Beijing was the culmination of that work and I’d be very surprised if they didn’t come away with some colour medal this time around. That’s where the other sports want to be. The fact that we have a sport like that in Ireland, we all aspire to what they have delivered and hopefully we’ll join their ranks and come away with a medal as well. We’re comfortable with where we’re aiming for.”

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