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Rolex World Sailor of the Year – Female nominees
Rolex World Sailor of the Year – Female nominees © Sailing Energy / World Sailing

Female nominees ~ Rolex World Sailor of the Year

Marit Bouwmeester – The Laser Radial class has seen newcomers progress and Olympic medallists continue on their upward trend throughout the Rio 2016 quadrennial to form a formidable class line up.

But it was the Netherlands’ Marit Bouwmeester who rose above the fleet and showed she was the most determined and focussed to claim the coveted Olympic gold medal.

Bouwmeester began the nomination period with a silver medal in Abu Dhabi at the Sailing World Cup Final before making the short trip to Oman where she again picked up a silver at the 2015 Laser Radial World Championships.

At the turn of the year, the Dutch sailor made the trip to Rio de Janeiro in the lead up to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and competed at the Brazilian Laser Radial Championships and the Brazilian Nationals. Bouwmeester won both in quick succession to gain some confidence ahead of the summer showpiece in a venue that was touted to offer a range of sailing conditions.

A silver at Sailing World Cup Miami and gold at the European Championships followed before Bouwmeester fell outside of the medals in the 2016 Worlds in Mexico by finishing fourth.

The Dutch sailor is renowned for her fierce competitiveness and drive and obviously a fourth place finish was not acceptable. She was determined to make amends and would take the disappointment to add to the fire that burns inside her to win.

Marit Bouwmeester © Sailing Energy / World Sailing

Marit Bouwmeester © Sailing Energy / World Sailing

Bouwmeester returned home to win the Delta Lloyd Regatta and continued her strong racing to take the Sailing World Cup Weymouth and Portland title, the final international regatta before her assault on the Olympic title. An assault she had waited four years for after claiming silver at London 2012. She wanted, needed to go one better.

With two wins in Rio de Janiero already under her belt, Bouwmeester took her Rio form to sail a steady and consistent regatta which gave her an advantage heading in to the all important Medal Race. A race in which the memories of her last Olympic outing were still fresh, she would not make any mistakes this time around.

In a to and fro finale, Bouwmeester put to rest any Olympic demons she had. As she crossed the finish line, Bouwmeester knew she had the Olympic gold medal that she had coveted so much.

With a knack for punishing opponents when the time comes, Bouwmeester kept her cool and sailed an accomplished regatta when it mattered the most. Taking the experience of her earlier Rio de Janiero wins and the London 2012 lessons, the Dutch Radial sailor bettered her previous Olympic result by one position. But what a position, the gold was finally hers.

Cecilia Carranza Saroli

When you’re sailing in a team you have to perform different roles inside and outside of the boat. For Argentina’s Cecilia Carranza Saroli she became the ultimate team mate in an Olympic campaign that could have been so different. But you have to go through the bad to savour the good.

Having sailed in the Laser Radial at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games, Saroli decided to make the switch and compete with a partner for the Rio 2016 Olympiad. The newly introduced mixed Multihull class, the Nacra 17, presented a new opportunity for Saroli, providing her with a new dimension of Olympic campaigning.

Making the change from a one-person dinghy to two-person multihull was always going to be a challenge but Saroli would face more emotions than most. Support, heartache, team work, and in the end, triumph. She would taste it all.

Partner Santiago Lange’s story has been widely spread. Cancer in 2015, a return to health and then Olympic gold. But while Lange’s is undoubtedly an inspiring story, it is important to remember that the Nacra 17 is sailed by two people with the same dream. When something happens to put that dream on hold, it happens to them both.

Rolex World Sailor of the Year – Female nominees

Rolex World Sailor of the Year – Female nominees © Sailing Energy / World Sailing

As Lange was undergoing treatment and subsequently getting back to fitness, Saroli had to put her Olympic dream on hold. Instead of sharpening her boat skills with her partner, she had to do the most important job of all. Support. Not in the boat. But out of it in everyday life.

Some things are more important in life than even sailing. And health is one of those. Saroli waited and supported patiently in the ultimate test of a partnership. She could have easily given up on her Olympic dream or moved on to another partner. But she did neither.

When it came to Lange’s return the pair worked their way through the rigours of the physical class, testing, training and working on their rhythm before moving on to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

It was in South America where the dream began and finished. Argentina to Brazil. Taking the strength and determination their time out of the boat had given them, they began down a dream path to Olympic gold.

Experience was the buzz word for the two Argentinean sailors. Marrying her own Olympic experience with Lange’s in a class making its Olympic debut, they sailed to the top of the leaderboard heading in to the Medal Race. They then took the experience of the previous year, determination and strength, to clinch gold from the face of defeat when they had two penalty turns against them.

Saroli and Lange had done it. They had won gold in one of the stories of the Games.

by Richard Aspland

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