Park: No need to panic after London 2012

Great Britain's Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson were unlucky not to bag Olympic gold
Great Britain's Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson were unlucky not to bag Olympic gold
Alex Alley, from Gosport.

Picture: Sarah Standing (151832-9304) PPP-151030-175051001

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Team GB sailors won medals in half their classes but the team lost its top Olympic sailing nation status to the Australians.

Though they won the most medals of any nation – five – the single gold also drops them behind the Spanish team, who had two.

The host nation did hit their pre-London 2012 target of five medals but failed to take the chance to convert three solid silvers into gold.

It’s a mixed picture that emerges from Weymouth, perhaps tinged with the heightened expectations that go hand in hand with a home Olympics, not to mention a superb showing in Beijing four years ago.

But the RYA’s Olympic manager Stephen Park remains upbeat.

‘I think you have got to be happy with winning medals on half of your opportunities,’ he said.

‘If we had done that in every sport then we would be doing incredibly well, wouldn’t we.

‘Hopefully – on the basis we have exceeded our targets and we have medalled in half of our events – we will get reasonable support moving forwards.’

Despite being knocked off their perch as the top Olympic sailing nation, Park said Team GB had been better prepared than ever before.

‘That’s just the nature of the changing mood of the sport. As it continues to get more and more competitive, that target becomes harder and harder to achieve.

‘But that is sport, that is what makes you competitive, what drives people on every day and why it is so special to win.

‘The only difference between this time and four years or eight years ago, is that the level of competition among the top teams is getting tougher and tougher.’

Rio will see a steep change in the team’s format – with the Star, windsurfing and the Women’s Match Racing classes being dropped.

And a number of the old guard, including Ben Ainslie, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, are likely to have sailed their last Olympics, though Park refuses to write anybody off at this early stage.

Looking to the future, Weymouth demonstrated the existing squad has rising talent aplenty – notably Ali Young in the Radial, Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell in the 470 Men and Hannah Mills with Saskia Clark in the 470 Women.

There are also strong youth and development squads capable of stepping up to the challenges of the three new classes in Rio – the women’s 49er FX, the Nacra 17 mixed multihull and the kiteboards.

Rio could just see Team GB back on the top of the podium.