The U.S. looks poised to take another spot on the podium in one of the Olympics lesser known water sports: Laser Radial.
We’re 8 weeks away from the summer Olympics in London and it’s about time you got to know some of the American athletes poised to bring home gold. This week we look at one of the Olympics lesser known water sports, Laser Radial sailing, and a first time American olympian going for gold: Paige Railey.
Born in: St. Petersburg, Florida
Event: Laser Radial
Sailing certainly isn’t the most high-profile Olympic sport, but Paige Railey is one of the most high-profile athletes in it. She’s a four-time World Champion, three-time bronze medal World Champion, two-time European Open Champion and while her Olympic experience has thus far been limited to trials, she’s planning to add London gold to her already impressive resume.
Dating back to her time on the youth circuit, Railey has set a string of records and firsts: she is the youngest sailor to be awarded U.S. Female Sailing Athlete of the Year, the youngest qualifier for the ISAF World Games, youngest to hold the number one spot on the U.S. sailing team, the first American to win the Women’s Radial European Champion and the only person to qualify for the U.S. youth sailing team 4 straight years. She’s also the youngest and first U.S. female to win the Rolex World Sailor of the Year award.
Dating back to 2010, Railey has finished in the top three (usually first) in all major regattas save one.
Worth Noting: Despite qualifying for the 2002 ISAF World Games, Railey was unable to compete because of an age restriction requiring racers to be at least 16 (she was 15 at the time). Railey nearly qualified for the 2008 Games in Beijing but was ousted by fellow American and eventual gold medal winner Anna Tunnicliffe at the U.S. Olympics Trials.
Railey on the trick to competitive sailing: “Spend hours on the water — alone or with someone else or with a group – and you’ll start to feel comfortable and then it will become second nature. When you can start looking at the elements – the wind, waves and current – then you know you’re comfortable with your boat.”
Olympic Scouting Report: Pardon the pun, but Railey has been making waves since she hit water; 2006 remains a stand-out year for the young sailor, but since then she has become more consistent and comfortable racing in the big time. She’s got some stiff competition coming out of Northern Europe in Marit Bouwmeester of the Netherlands, Evi Van Acker of Belgium and Sari Multala of Finland, but the top American sailor should be in a position to make the podium when all is said and done.