Brazilian sailors grab Olympic gold in 49erFX thriller

sport4RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian sailors Kahena Kunze and Martine Grael won a scintillating medal race to grab the women’s 49erFX skiff gold at the Rio Olympics on Thursday.

Three teams — Spain, Brazil and Denmark — went into the double-points finale with the same number of points atop the standings with New Zealand one adrift.

It was Kunze and Grael who emerged with gold, coming from third on the final leg to edge New Zealand’s Alex Maloney and Molly Meech by two seconds in a nail-biting run to the finish.

It was a glorious end to the Rio sailing competition for the host nation, which endured the disappointment of five-time Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt’s fourth-placed finish in the Laser.

Grael’s victory continues a family tradition — her father, Torben, won five Olympic medals for Brazil.

Maloney and Meech captured silver for New Zealand ahead of Denmark’s Jena Hansen and Katja Steen Salskov-Iversen.

It was a busy final day at the Marina da Gloria, after lack of wind forced the postponement of the men’s and women’s 470 races.

That postponed the coronation of Great Britain’s Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark, who had only to finish the double-points medal race to win gold after building a 20-point lead after 10 prior races.

Mills said that wasn’t as easy as it sounded.

“Realistically we were trying to stay out of the way. We didn’t want to do anything silly or cause any fouls or get in any crashes,” Mills said of their conservative effort. “We just wanted to get on the race course and have a nice race, which it wasn’t, it was quite stressful, but it’s done.

“We’re just overwhelmed right now. Obviously we kind of knew we clinched it, but we started to finish the race and that felt like a lot of pressure just to finish one 20-minute race.”

New Zealand’s Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie earned silver and France’s Helene Defrance and Camille Lecointre grabbed bronze after the United States made a late mistake to tumble from a podium position to seventh overall.

New Zealand’s Peter Burling and Blair Tuke had clinched the gold heading into the men’s 49er medal race but finished off their Rio campaign in style with another dominant performance in the medal race — tipping their skiff in celebration after the finish.

Behind the four-time world champions, Australia’s Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen won the battle for silver with Germans Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel taking bronze.

The men’s 470 saw Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic claim Croatia’s first Olympic sailing gold. The pair took a 10-point lead into the medal race and their eighth-placed finish was enough for gold ahead of Australians Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan, with bronze going to Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis of Greece.