GB sailors take Star gold medal
21 Aug 2008 11:55 BST
Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson won Britain's fourth sailing gold as they held their nerve in a thrilling climax to the Star class event in Qingdao.
Percy and Simpson started the medal race in second place and had to fight tooth and claw with Sweden before getting to the line just ahead of them.
The gold was the ideal end to Britain's most successful regatta in a century.
Brazil's Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada took silver, and Sweden's Fredrik Loof and Anders Ekstrom claimed the bronze.
Britain finished on 45 points, eight in front of the Brazilians and Swedes. The South Americans took silver by virtue of their better result in the medal race.
Percy and Simpson added another gold medal to Britain's tally in Qingdao, following in the wake of Ben Ainslie, Paul Goodison and the Yngling crew of Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson.
With six medals altogether, Britain's tally surpassed the five medals won in Sydney and Athens and matched the record from the London Games back in 1908.
GB sailing manager Stephen Park said his team's sustained success - this was the third Games in the row that they had topped the sailing medals table - was part of a more general change within British sport.
"It's absolutely fantastic, I'm over the moon with the medals and the gold for the Stars is the icing on the cake," said Park, who was thrown into the water by his jubilant team after the end of the regatta.
"It's a huge relief that we've actually managed to deliver against our target. I'm really pleased that Great Britain is having a fantastic Olympic Games and we're playing our part in that.
"We're working hard to try to keep up with my good mate Dave Brailsford (Team GB's cycling chief) and all of the cyclists and David Tanner (his equivalent with the British rowers) and the rowing team.
"They've done a pretty good job and the other sports are making a sterling effort. Britain is getting stronger and stronger in all its sports moving towards 2012.
"The question now is what are we going to do moving towards 2012 with the British team across all sports? And that's certainly going to be a very interesting discussion when we get home."
Britain's pre-Games target was to leave Qingdao with one gold medal as part of four in total.
Having significantly overachieved though, Park said Britain would go into the 2012 Olympics absolutely determined to build on their success.
"The aim is to win in every class and rest assured we will be going into that regatta with people that we believe are capable of winning in every single discipline," he said.
Percy said the crew had needed to hold its nerve in the final stages.
"It's unbelievable and it's so special to do it with this fella (Simpson)," said Percy, after claiming the second Olympic gold of his career.
"I knew we weren't going to bottle it, and we didn't."
Simpson, who took gold in his first ever Olympics, added: "I'm just shocked. To do this after this week and this year we've had is unbelievable.
"There are no words to describe how happy we are.
"Since last year, everything has been focused on this week. We've worked really hard for the last 12 months.
"We had to pull it back from the brink. It was a tough race and we're just glad it all came together."
Britain eventually finished fifth in the medal race, behind race winners Poland, but the crucial factor was that they finished ahead of Sweden.
The two boats were neck-and-neck for much of the race but Percy and Simpson, who started the race two points behind Sweden, did just enough to keep their noses in front as the pressure increased in the closing stages.