Thursday, August 09, 2012

"A Heck of a Wake-up Call"

Number of medals won by USA at Olympic Games/ number of sailing events.

1948 Torquay   4/5

1952 Harmaja  3/5

1956 Port Phillip  2/5

1960 Naples  2/5

1964 Sagami Bay  5/5

1968 Acapulco  2/5

1972 Kiel 3/6

1976 Kingston 3/6

1980 Tallinn - USA Boycott

1984 Long Beach  7/7

1988 Pusan  5/8

1992 Barcelona  9/10

1996 Savannah  2/10

2000 Sydney  4/11

2004 Athens  2/11

2008 Qingdao  2/11

2012  Weymouth  0/10

Sources: US Sailing 1948-2000  and Wikipedia 2004 and 2008

Dean Brenner, outgoing chairman of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Program - "This is not the distinction this team was going for. Listen, there's no hiding. There's no way to spin it. There's no way to suggest anything other than we didn't perform."

U.S. Sailing President Gary Jobson - "A heck of a wake-up call. In essence, we weren't competitive in any class. I was a little surprised, and, like all American sailors, disappointed. The question for me is, what do we do about it? I can't predict how the review will go, but I can tell you it's going to be thorough. This isn't going to stand long-term."


Judith Krimski said...

Good post - Since 1996 the medal numbers have been pretty dismal. I don't know about you but I think they might have been scrutinizing their performance back 15+ years.

Tillerman said...

That's why I published a longer historical context. I think we have all got used to expecting USA to win a couple of sailing medals every Olympics but we used to do much much better than that. From 1948 to 1992 we almost always medaled in at least half the events and sometimes won medals in every event or every event except one.

I hope the review will be about how USA can get back to that level of performance again.

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) has a vision to make the USA the best in the world in Olympic skiing and snowboarding. US Sailing (or whoever runs the US sailing Olympic effort - maybe they should appoint someone else) should have a similar vision.

Sam Chapin said...

The other countries have been sailing more now. We used to have almost all of the Star sailors. Lasers are really tough because there are more counties sailing in it. Then maybe some of the others work harder at it. Then aren't we glad to see such good sailing around the world??

Tillerman said...

Personally I am very happy to see that Laser sailing is so popular all over the world and to see countries like Cyprus and Singapore and Estonia doing well. I also think that USA ought to be able to have a program that can do better than countries like Cyprus and Singapore and Estonia.

Or are you saying, Sam, that I should be excited that the US Laser sailor beat Montenegro and Monaco?

Tillerman said...

Oh, by the way, I have referenced a few times over the years a sailing blog called furia taurina. Actually, like this blog, it's not always about sailing. Sometimes it's about music or food.

The author of the blog is a young man called Colin Cheng. He has been blogging since 2008. I am especially pleased that Colin was the sailor from Singapore who came 15th in Lasers at the Olympics in Weymouth.

Well done, sir!

Tillerman said...

And, another by they way...

This post is not meant to be a knock against any individual US sailors. I am sure they all worked extremely hard for many years for the chance to compete and the chance to do well in this Olympics. I am sure that the issue is more about deep-seated cultural and organizational issues with sailing in North America (it doesn't look like Canada will win any sailing medals either).

JP said...

I have this horrid feeling the Canadians got lapped in the windsurfing medal race.

George A said...

Sailing? Olympics? Hard to get excited about a sport they won't show on the telly. Sailing got displaced in the Olympic/TV network pecking order by ribbon twirling years ago. My only question is why do "the powers that be" insist on making sailing "exciting for television" (eg: the medal round elimination race) when they don't televise a single race, ever(!)--medal rounds included??? Somebody nudge me awake when synchro-swimming (or better yet, when the next entertaining commercial) is back on...

Tillerman said...

George, NBC didn't show sailing on TV in the USA but many other countries did. Of course Ireland had the best commentary.

And when I was teaching sailing I do recall taping Olympic sailing and showing it to my students. It must have been the 2004 Olympics so that was on TV in America.

MJ said...

For the Sydney Olympics, they did a half-hour recap of the day's sailing events(narrated by Gary Jobson, i think) everday (or just about) at a certain time. Why can't they do that again?

Tillerman said...

Olympic sailing news appeals to the general public only if it is personality driven. There's a great interview by Andy Rice with Bob Harris on why Olympic sailing has caught the imagination of the general public in Britain here.

Of course it helps a bit that the British team does win some medals from time to time.

George A said...

Tillerman, You're absolutely correct. TV coverage at Athens in '04 and Tsingtao in '08 did provide limited coverage of sailing, and like you I taped the small bits from the Athens games that featured the Europe dinghy. But this time around you either bought streaming feed via the internet or you could read about it a day later. Regrettably, my old steam powered iMac can't keep up. Hopefully I'll have a newer computer in time for the Rio games!

Tillerman said...

There will be no coverage at all in the US of the sailing at Rio. Why would they cover a sport where the US don't win any medals?

Anonymous said...

Jobson's comment is unduly harsh. The USA was competitive in the Star, Radial, Women's 470 and Match Racing. Of course, it depends on how 'competitive' is defined, but it's my opinion that 'top ten' qualifies as such. Sam Chapin made the good point that many other countries have developed serious Olympic sailing programs in the last decade or so (example: China, Singapore). Hence, competition has become (a lot) tougher.


George A said...

Money of course. America (and other western hemisphere nations) has rasbucknics to spend. According to a sailing friend up in Cape Breton Island, Canada was also shut out from coverage this time around. Hopefully with the games returning to the western hemisphere this remedied.

As for not winning any medals, those of us who root for the Red Skins keep watching even though the team has floundered since the Joe Gibbs days. Hope springs eternal. As we say in the Wash, DC suburbs "They may be losers, but they're our losers".

Additionally, the network should consider that many of the "eyeballs" in households in the USA belong to ex-pats with fond allegiances to other countries. My wife is currently back home in Sweden but she left with the satisfaction of knowing that "her" team brought home the bacon in the Star class--something I'm sure I'll be reminded of upon her return!

Tillerman said...

Singapore is going to be even tougher competition in the coming years. At the recent Optimist Worlds in the Dominican Republic, Singapore took 4 of the top 5 places. Just to give you a sense of scale, Singapore's population is about the same as that of Colorado. 21 US states each have more people than Singapore.

kiwiyates said...

Australia 3 1 0 4
Spain 2 0 0 2
Great Britain 1 4 0 5
Netherlands 1 1 1 3
New Zealand 1 1 0 2
USA 0 0 0 0

Hmmm need we say more. Well yes - if you combine NZ and Aussie = 6 medals and GB has 3 countries (and way bigger pop) = 5

Also, Sailing Anarchy has a very interesting article "Coaches Corner" about US coaching/training - makes you think!

Tillerman said...

It just goes to show, you don't need a huge population to do well in Olympic sailing. What seems much more important is the passion for sailing in the country, the level of enthusiasm at the grass roots, and the necessary support from the national authority to identify talent young and to develop it right up to the Olympic level.

kiwiyates said...

I agree. Since moving to the States and getting involved in a sailing "program" I have started to question the whole idea of organized sports. I am also heavily involved in soccer and the issues are the same. The really good athletes are those who are passionate about their sport and spend a lot of time doing it "just for fun". Look at all those kids playing soccer in the street or back yard, or sailing on their local pond/river/bay and spending hours just goofing off. I remember sailing Hobie with a friend and we probably capsized 30 times, just having fun & pushing the limits (but boy did we learn handling and righting...) When a sport ends up being so structured and organized that kids don't get the chance to learn from their mistakes - then the sport loses out and the kids often drop out.

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