March 14, 2016
Nine sailors secure Rio Olympics qualification at Asian Championships in Abu Dhabi
In a testing week that saw sailors spooked by unfamiliar thunderstorms that battered the UAE, a handful of competitors at the ASAF Asian Sailing Championships can now bask in the glory of making it to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro later this year. Race winners pose with their medals at the conclusion of the ASAF Asian Sailing Champs. After six days of racing in Abu Dhabi in six different categories, nine sailors will now go on to represent their nations in Brazil in August.
In the Laser Radial, series leader Kamolwan Chanyim, from Thailand, had a 20 point advantage going into the final double points medal race Saturday, and a fifth place finish was more than enough to secure her title and a place in Rio.
“This is a good stepping stone for my preparations for Rio 2016,” she said. “It’s a busy calendar from now until the Games. From now on I will be training at many events.”
Malaysia’s Khairulnizam Afendy was a cut above the field in the men’s Laser Standard throughout the week and held a firm advantage before the final race, winning gold and subsequently, a place in Brazil.
“I have never had this feeling before so I don’t know how to describe it,” said Afendy.
“It is so good to qualify for the Olympics and I am so proud how I sailed this week. I kept following the wind, even if I was not in the best position all the time, and in the end it worked.”
Thailand’s Keerati Bualong claimed silver and also grabbed a spot for Rio. “This is something I have never experienced and now I know what the feeling is when you qualify for the Olympics. It is crazy,” said a delighted Keerati.
“I am so happy to achieve something so big, something solid and I am just proud. I feel a lot of emotion. It’s a new feeling.”
Japanese duo Yukio Makino and Kenji Takahashi won gold and took the sole Olympic spot in the 49er section. “The good thing for us is that there are so many things that we didn’t get quite right this week,” said Makino, who will feature in his third straight Games, having competed at both Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012.
“To still be able to pull off a gold medal feels good. We’ve got a lot of things to go and work on, so we’ll do that and we’ll be back fighting fit,” he added.
Compatriots Keiko Miyagawa and Sena Takano won gold in the 49er FX in an all-Japan affair, beating Saki Matsunae and Sayoko Harada who had led overall going into the medal race. “This morning we thought if we want to avoid all the problems, calculations, we just have to go out to win the medal race,” explained Miyagawa, whose runner-up spot in the final was good enough for the 49er FX title.
Elsewhere, South Korea’s Cho Wonwoo won the RS:X Men division, while Hong Kong’s Sin Lam Lo claimed gold in the RS:X Women.