By Chrös McDougall | Feb. 27, 2020, 11:10 p.m. (ET)

 

Fighting the tough conditions at Australia’s Port Phillip Bay, and a fierce competition with her U.S. teammates, sailor Paige Railey showed her veteran mettle in finishing 14th as the ILCA Women’s Laser Radial World Championships wrapped up Friday in Melbourne.

That result, combined with her 12th-place finish at last year’s world championships, secured her third consecutive Olympic berth in Laser Radial, a one-person dinghy.

Railey, a 32-year-old from Clearwater, Florida, was one of three Americans in contention for the Olympic spot coming into this week’s competition. Sailors were ranked based on their combined placements at the 2019 and 2020 world championships, and whoever finished with the lowest total earned the spot at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Charlotte Rose came into Australia as the favorite after finishing ninth in 2019, while Railey was 12th and Erika Reineke 21st. The competition only got tighter during three days of fleet sailing in Melbourne, and at one point Reineke and Railey were tied with Rose one spot behind them.

However, Railey broke away from the pack with a consistent performance on the last day of racing to finish 14th, while Reineke ended in 26th and Rose 36th, allowing Railey to fairly easily claim the Olympic berth.

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The Tokyo Games will mark the next milestone in a career full of them for Railey.

Following in the footsteps of her older brother, Zach Railey, as he became a two-time Olympian and the 2008 silver medalist in Finn, Paige Railey broke out when she won a world title in 2005 while still a teenager.

Though she just missed out on the Beijing Games herself to the eventual Olympic champion, Railey made her Olympic debut four years later in London, finishing eighth, and remained a regular contender in the years that followed. After coming back from a serious training accident in 2014, Railey finished second at the 2016 world championships and 10th at the Rio Games.

Now she’s successfully come back in another way.

Railey took time off following the Rio Games to become certified as an insurance agent, only to come back in 2018 to finish fifth at the world championships. That marked her eighth top-10 finish at worlds. She also won a world cup bronze in France that year, and in 2019 claimed silver at the Miami World Cup.

At the time of her 2016 world silver medal, Railey’s five podium finishes – including bronze in 2010, 2011 and 2013 – made her the most decorated sailor in the class at the world championships; the Netherlands’ Marit Bouwmeester, who won Friday, has since passed her.

Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic and Paralympic movements for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.