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Windsurfing makes spirited exit from Olympics; Australians strong again

08/06/2012 02:15 EDT | Updated 10/06/2012 05:12 EDT
WEYMOUTH, England - The Olympic party boats have come ashore for the final time.

Windsurfing made a spirited games exit on Tuesday, with Dorian Van Rijsselberge of the Netherlands collecting the men's gold medal he'd clinched days earlier and Marina Alabau of Spain winning the women's regatta.

Windsurfing got the heave-ho from the lineup for the 2016 Rio Olympics in a vote in May, replaced by kiteboarding. The International RS:X Class Association filed a legal challenge last week against the International Sailing Federation.

Alabau got a regal send-off from her fellow Spanish sailors after coming ashore. As she stood on her board, they hoisted it on their shoulders and paraded her through the boat park. She held a bottle of Spanish sparkling wine in her left hand and waved her country's flag with her right.

"It was the best of the week, for sure," she said.

Now the reality: She and the other windsurfers will probably have to focus on kiteboarding if they want to stay in the Olympics.

"Yeah, I think this was a mistake," she said about windsurfing getting blown out of the games. "I think it will come back. This is my hope and this is what I think will be the right thing. I know how to kite and I will kite if they don't give me another chance, but I love windsurfing."

Van Rijsselberge agreed.

"Of course it's a sad thing," he said. "Look at all the people here. Everyone is enjoying themselves. They come off the water with smiles on their faces."

His gold medal already guaranteed, all Van Rijsselberge had to do was stay on his board and finish the final race.

He did much more than that, skimming across the waves to finish first in the medals race and clinch his gold in style.

After winning the race, the 6-foot-3 (1.9-meter) Van Rijsselberge climbed on top of the console on his coach's boat and, hanging onto the pole that supports the weather vane, flashed the "hang loose" sign with his right hand. A large Dutch flag flew from the boat.

The Dutchman, who shaved his head just before the games began, said he wanted to do well in the final race.

"It was already in the pocket, but finishing it up like this and seeing everyone on the Nothe Course and them outroaring the British a little bit was a good thing for me, so why not? I want to have a good feeling and I want to wrap it up nicely. It's the medals race and you've got to race it. It's the most important race, pretty much."

Van Rijsselberge won six of the first nine races. His lead was so big that he sat out the 10th race.

Nick Dempsey of Britain took the silver and Przemyslaw Miarczynski of Poland got the bronze.

With the race close to shore, Dempsey hopped off his board and greeted friends and family watching from the Nothe Fort.

Alabau came into the medals race with a 14-point lead and preserved it by finishing first.

Tuuli Petaja of Finland jumped from third place overall to take the silver medal thanks to a fourth-place finish in the medals race. Zofia Noceti-Klepacka of Poland jumped from fifth overall to take the bronze by finishing third.

Meanwhile, the Australian 470 duo of Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page won both Race 9 and 10 to open a four-point lead over the British duo of Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell. The gold and silver medals will be decided between those two crews in Thursday's final race, which awards double points. The Aussies have 18 points and the British 22.

Then it's all the way back to 57 points for Lucas Calabrese and Juan de la Fuente of Argentina.

Page was on the winning 470 crew in Beijing, sailing with Nathan Wilmot.

The Australians would love to win more gold medals than Britain's strong, well-funded team. So far, Aussie Tom Slingsby has won the gold in the Laser class while Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen have clinched the gold in the 49er skiff going into Wednesday's medals race. Like van Rijsselberge in the men's windsurfing, Outteridge and Jensen must make a "genuine effort" to start and finish the race to collect their gold.

Britain has won one gold, by Ben Ainslie in the Finn.

"I think GBR would feel pretty bad, wouldn't they?" Page said about the prospects of the hosts finishing behind the Aussies in gold medals. "We're just going to worry about ourselves. Obviously we've got two in the bag already, the Laser and 49er, so that's phenomenal for those guys, and we're just going to use their ways and spur us on to be stronger.

"I've obviously felt that before from Beijing so I know how to win. And we've done it with world championships. The first one was much harder to win than the second, because you learn how to win. You learn how to have the yellow jersey on and manage it. I like where we are."

The Aussies have won five of 10 races.

"We've just got to keep sailing like we're sailing," Page said. "Once we got the first-day jitters out of the way, we've been back to our normal mojo. Since then there have been eight races and we've won seven of them over the Brits. We've got to keep that going and trust ourselves."

The British crew was a bit reserved despite being assured of no worse than silver.

"We're stoked, don't get us wrong," Bithell said. "We're happy boys, yeah, really happy, but there's work to be done. There's yet another race and an opportunity to upgrade."

The American crew of Stuart McNay and Graham Biehl finished 14th overall.

The United States hasn't come close to winning a medal.

Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie of New Zealand continue to lead the women's 470 with two races left before the medals race. The American crew of Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan is seventh, 25 points out of medal position.

The American women's match racing crew, skippered by Anna Tunnicliffe, lost the first two flights in its best-of-five quarterfinal matchup against Finland. Tunnicliffe, who was born in England and moved to the United States when she was 12, came in as the favourite. She won the Laser Radial gold in Beijing.

"We've been in situations like this many times, like in our trials we've been down," Tunnicliffe said. "We sailed two really good races today. We're not disappointed with how we sailed. Tomorrow's a new day."

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