With a strong, consistent performance in the waters off Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Paige Railey claimed the silver medal in women’s Laser Radial at the 2016 Laser World Championships, an achievement that will make her a medal favorite entering the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in August.
Railey battled two-time world champion and reigning Olympic silver medalist Marit Bouwmeester of the Netherlands and held a three-point lead over the world No. 1 on Tuesday. Railey’s consistency was on display again Wednesday with sixth-place finishes in both races. It was enough to open a margin on Bouwmeester, who stumbled badly in the Wednesday’s first race and lost her potential podium spot.
However, that opened the door for Alison Young of Great Britain, who used a first-place finish in the final race to vault past Railey and take the gold with 42 points, edging Railey’s 43 points. Denmark’s Anne-Marie Rindom won the bronze medal with 50 points, while Bouwmeester ended with 54.
American Erika Reineke, who finished second to Railey in the Olympic selection process, ended in sixth with 84.
The worlds silver medal caps a remarkable comeback for Railey after a bicycling accident that resulted in a fractured spine, several lost teeth and some dislocated knuckles. The injuries kept her ashore for four months, and she doubted whether she would ever sail again. Those doubts were cast aside with a gold medal performance at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games and a fourth-place finish at the Rio Olympic test event.
Railey burst onto the international scene in December 2005, at age 18 becoming the first U.S. woman to win the Laser Radial world title since Betsy Gelenitis in 1983. That victory came in Fortaleza, Brazil, giving the Clearwater, Florida, native a history of success in Brazilian waters. She now has a gold, a silver and three bronze medals in world championship competition. A member of the London 2012 Olympic team, she placed eighth in the waters off Weymouth.
The 2006 ISAF Sailor of the Year, Railey enters her second Olympic regatta with an opportunity to give the United States its second Laser Radial gold medal. Anna Tunnicliffe, who edged out Railey to earn the Olympic spot in 2008, won the event’s inaugural gold in Beijing.
The United States has won 13 worlds medals (two golds, six silvers, five bronzes) since the event began in 1980. Railey holds five of the 13, more than any other U.S. woman.