Two-time Olympian Paige Railey won three races throughout the week to sail off with the only medal for Team USA at the sailing world cup in Hyères, France.
Railey came away with bronze overall in the Laser Radial, or women’s one person dinghy division, behind Marit Bouwmeester of the Netherlands and Finland’s Monika Mikkola. The Dutch sailor, the reigning Olympic champion in Laser Radial, swept skillfully over the Mediterranean course all week long, accumulating just 53 race points in 11 outings.
The bronze marks Railey’s first world cup medal in four years, since winning the Miami World Cup in January 2014. It is also a positive sign for the sailor who recently committed herself to a Tokyo 2020 campaign after being absent from Olympic class racing for all but six weeks of the 20 months since the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
“I decided to campaign for Tokyo because I’ve achieved almost everything you can achieve in the Radial,” Railey told US Sailing. “The last missing piece is an Olympic gold medal. If I can secure that, I think I can walk away saying I’ve done everything you can do in this boat.”
Railey has won the world championships, Europeans, Pan American Games, world cups and more – but has yet to earn an Olympic medal.
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Railey’s road to bronze in France was a more turbulent affair, with both highlights and hard races. The 30-year-old from Clearwater, Florida, started her week by finishing on top in her first two races on Tuesday, then cracked the top-10 only once during the next four.
Heading into the weekend, Railey took a positive approach to her ranking.
“Yesterday wasn’t my brightest, but I have one thing to say about it...O, well!” she posted to Instagram on Friday, adding a happy face emoji.
The winds of her fate changed on Friday with a fourth-place finish in the seventh race, putting her within striking distance of the podium. On Saturday, she was again the top sailor in the ninth race.
Two more top-20 finishes to close out the competition on Sunday gave Railey a total of 120 points, not sufficient to challenge Mikkola at 109 but enough to hold off the late charge of Denmark’s Anne-Marie Rindom (124), who notched five top-10 placements during the week, including a pair of fourth places on Sunday.
Nobody, however, could top the consistent Bouwmeester, who won two races of her own and finished lower than 10th just twice.
Team USA’s Erika Reineke, a 2020 Olympic hopeful, finished sixth overall with 142 points following a strong showing on the water on the final day of competition.
Blythe Lawrence is a journalist based in Seattle. She has covered two Olympic Games and is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.