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Toughest task yet for SA’s two sailors

South Africa’s two sailors embarking on their toughest task to date as they make their Olympic Games debut in Weymouth, England on Thursday, writes Mark Etheridge.

Cape Town’s Roger Hudson and Asenathi Jim were up against all sorts of odds but finally managed to secure the sole remaining spot in the 27-boat fleet of 470’s in Barcelona, Spain in May.

Thursday will see them race the first two of their 10 one-hour races, two races per day until the final medal race.

Says Hudson: “I remember watching World War 2 films when I was a kid and thinking ‘how do they do it’, those brave soldiers landing on the beach at Normandy facing a monstrous barrage of bullets and only the slimmest of chances of making it up the beach alive.

“What must it be like to face down those sorts of odds, what kind of mindset must you need to hold your nerve and make the best of what skills and opportunities you have within your grasp in order to give yourself the best possible chance of success?

“Now we go out to race against the Olympic 470 fleet in London 2012 and the fact is that the odds are stacked against us. In terms of experience in the 470 class, of the 27 countries going into battle, we have the least at just 18 months, against a fleet average of around 10 years, and in some cases 15 years.”

When it comes to sailing the old saying of knowledge is power couldn’t be more apt.

“That’s 15 years of carefully developing and shaping their craft, 15 years of learning how not to make the little mistakes that cost you so much,” says Hudson. “In terms of world ranking, we are at the back of the queue in this fleet. All those hundreds of 470 sailors that we managed to put behind us in the world ranking so far, they are not in this race.

“But contest is a funny thing, governed in some situations by the human spirit and the will to succeed that rears its wild head at times of great pressure to dominate the scene for the day. We are quite literally living the dream here at London 2012, soaking up all the dazzling atmosphere and enjoying the moment.

“Amongst all the interesting people we meet and talk to along the way, we hear a common voice from the wise old Olympic heads who have seen more than a few Olympiads unfold. They tell us that under pressure things change, and under extreme pressure things change in the extreme. If you can keep your head, if you can put in your best performance, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

“This is our challenge here at London 2012. We are going out there with all the will to hold our nerve and make the very best of what skills and opportunities we have within our grasp. We are feeling well prepared and ready, fit and strong.

“Thanks to all those who’ve got our backs.”


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