The coffers are empty for the 10-fleet U.S. Olympic sailing team after Amanda Clark and Sarah Lihan — the only U.S. sailors to make it to the medal round in their respective fleet — finished ninth in the women’s 470, leaving the U.S. sailing team without a single medal at the London 2012 Games.
Clark and Lihan, who hail from New York and Florida respectively and came together as a team just 18 months ago, quickly experienced success as a team, collecting medals in the 470 class at World Cup events. But for these women, and their U.S. Olympic teammates, reaching the podium at the Olympic sailing venue in Weymouth, England, proved elusive.
Citing the shifty breezes and unpredictable winds in the final medal race on Friday, the women said that they did not sail as smartly as they would have liked and were battling wind pressure that was changeable and tricky.
“Our medal race was unfortunately not as breezy as the men had,” Lihan explained in a post-race news conference. “We had a lot of pressure coming in and out. When the pressure was in, the left was the favored side of the course, and when it was out the right was favored. We didn’t line ourselves up with those trends and our scores reflect that.”
Because of their score going into the race Friday, the women could not have medaled today but hoped to finish at the top of the fleet.
Instead, they were 10th out of 10 — finishing their Olympic run in ninth place overall. Finishing in the top three were the teams from New Zealand, Great Britain and the Netherlands.
Now US Sailing will have to reflect on how to prepare for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
“Today, when we saw the Brits with their double flares and the Kiwis upside down, and everyone celebrating, Amanda and I were pretty down, to be honest,” Lihan said before adding, “but I said, ‘You know what? I represented the USA at the Olympics. I am disappointed in how we performed, and wish I could have seen that flag raised, but we were here; we did it.’”
For skipper Clark, who has now completed her second Olympic Games, she added that what motivated her to keep going in 2011 is her love of the sport.
“I really enjoy being part of the Olympic experience,” Clark said. “It’s been a great experience and definitely glad I didn’t stop in 2011.”
Clark said that there was a greater sense of team unity for these Games.
“We were working fully together and we are in this together and share so many memories now as the U.S. sailing team,” Clark said.
Still, the performance in London left the U.S. sailing team — whose 59 Olympic medals are the most of any nation — searching for answers.
Wrote Dean Brenner, chairman of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Program, in his daily blog, At the Helm: “We came into these Games thinking we could legitimately compete for a medal in several events, and in a few others, we felt we had some version of ‘a chance,’ if things fell our way. Never in my wildest dreams did I think everything would fall our way, and that we would win five medals or more. But it was equally unexpected that we would strike out across the board, and come home with zero. I’m proud of this team. I’m proud of our program. I’m proud of the progress we have made over the last four and eight years.
“I’m not proud of these results,” he added, “but we will look closely at what happened, and we will do our best to be better next time.”
Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Laurie Fullerton is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.