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Olympic Games - Wednesday 18 August - Mistral Women
Posted On:  18/08/2004 22:33:06
Hong Kong and Italy On Equal Points

The 1996 and 2000 gold medallists, Lee Lai SHAN (HKG) and Alessandra SENSINI (ITA) sit on equal points, with Lee Lai, or San San as she is better known, ahead on countback.

Lee Lai was in need of a bullet to get back on track and keep herself at the front of the pack, and she achieved that in today's race 4 with a reasonably impressive 15 second margin over Barbara KENDALL (NZL). For Kendall, using the reserve day to get back on schedule, Race 3 in the Mistral women fleet started ideal sailing conditions with a steady wind, blowing from 170 degrees at 13 knots.

First to the windward mark was China's Yin JIAN, marginly ahead of Faustine MERRETT (FRA) and Greece's Antonia GREY, who rounded at the same time ahead of the pack.

Today's race was for the fans of windsurfing everything that they expected. A fight between all the pre-competition favourites of the class – Lee Lai SHAN (HKG), Barbara KENDALL (NZL), Alessandra SENSINI (ITA) – was the most interesting as the lead went from hand to hand. It was a very hard and demanding race, without any possibility to relax. The leading sailors chose correctly to sail on the favoured left hand side of the course.

34 years old SENSINI, Sydney's gold and Atlanta's bronze medallist, took an early lead after a very good start that looked as though she would be able to keep it all the way to the end. Not to be, as on the second windward leg she lost the lead to legendary KENDALL and eventually finished third. KENDALL, was the first ever woman to win a gold medal in windsurfing at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, which was followed up by a silver medal in Atlanta and bronze in Sydney. It was a short-lived happiness for KENDALL, who lost her place at the next rounding from SHAN and finished second. SHAN, Atlanta's gold medallist, the only athlete from Hong Kong to ever win a gold medal in the Olympic Games in any sport, came back from behind, in a fantastic downwind leg to win a very difficult race playing a well executed tactic to cover her opposition all the way to the finish line.

Faustine MERRET (FRA) who currently leads the ISAF World Sailing Rankings finished fourth, while 35 year old Australian Jessica CRISP, who finished fifth in 5th in Sydney, finished fifth.

Bulgaria's Irina KONSTANTINOVA finished eighth in race 8, her best performance so far. Irina, who has benefited from an Olympic Solidarity Scholarship to support her Olympic campaign, first participated at the 2000 Olympic Regatta which represented Bulgaria's first ever entry in the women’s windsurfing event. In 2000, Irina finished 24, but having slowly propelled her way up the rankings and currently placed 30 in the world, she will be planning to improve here in Athens.

Zofia KLEPACKA (POL) multi Youth World Champion in the windsurfing girls event is also performing well in this high-class fleet, and has plenty of time to pull something out of the bag, and is currently placed sixth overall.

After four races, LEE has moved up and is now leading the overall rankings, followed by SENSINI and MERRET, while Jian YIN (CHN) is in fourth place. Surprisingly, KENDALL is in the 10th position, burdened with an OCS from race 3, but with a discard coming into play after race 5 expect some movement in positions.

ISAF (Source: INFO 2004), 18 August 2004, 19:10
http://www.sailing.org/olympics2004/EventHome.asp?id=mistralwomen

Photo credit:Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images