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Sailor Luke Muller Edges Olympic Bronze Medalist Caleb Paine For 2021 Olympic Finn Spot

By Chrös McDougall | July 10, 2020, 2:20 p.m. (ET)


For a while, Luke Muller’s boats of choice were windsurfers and surfboards. Then he switched to sailboats, going from an Optimist dinghy to the Laser class, where he became a teenage national champion.

In his pursuit to become a U.S. Olympian, the Fort Pierce, Florida, native switched boats once again, moving in 2014 to the Finn, or one-person heavyweight dinghy.

That proved to be the right fit.

Muller on Friday became the 11th U.S. sailor to qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2021. The 24-year-old beat out teammate and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Caleb Paine for the lone Finn spot on Team USA as the result of US Sailing’s updated qualifying procedures. Finn selection has concluded based on the results of the first two selection events: the 2019 World Championship and 2020 Hempel World Cup Series Miami.

Coming from a family of sailors, Muller, who splits his time between Fort Pierce and New York City, has been surfing most of his life, getting a start around age 4 or 5. Initially a recreational sailor, Muller began to take the sport more seriously as he continued to progress, and in 2013 he became the youngest U.S. champ in the Laser class.

Eventually he outgrew the Laser, however, and prior to enrolling at Stanford in 2014 he moved up to the Finn.

Training with Paine and coach Luther Carpenter, Muller has found success, including finishing third at the 2019 and 2020 world cups in Miami.

Muller and Paine had been battling with Eric Anderson for the Tokyo spot. Through two of the three Olympic trials events, Muller held the top spot. The 2020 Finn Gold Cup, which was set to be the third trial event, was postponed from May to October due to the pandemic. US Sailing’s Olympic Sailing Committee (OSC) voted that participation at the 2020 Finn and 470 World Championships is not in the best interest of U.S. athletes. 

With Muller’s qualification, the last sailing Olympic spot to be filled on Team USA is the women’s 470, where three teams were in a tight battle through two of the three trial events.

The U.S. sailors who have qualified so far are:

Mixed Nacra 17: Riley Gibbs & Anna Weis
Women’s 49erFX: Stephanie Roble & Maggie Shea
Men’s Laser: Charlie Buckingham
Women’s Laser Radial: Paige Railey 
Women’s RS:X: Farrah Hall 
Men’s RS:X: Pedro Pascual
Men’s 470: Stu McNay & Dave Hughes

The Finn is the oldest sailing class in the Olympic program, dating back to the Helsinki Games in 1952. Americans have medaled six times in the event, though no U.S. Finn sailor has won gold.

The sailing competitions in Tokyo will be held in Enoshima, which is approximately 35 miles south of Tokyo’s main Olympic park and where the 1964 Olympic sailing events were contested.

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.