(QINGDAO, September 12) -- Although the gold medal was technically in their hands, the US crew of Nick Scandone and Maureen McKinnon Tucker sailed one more race to clarify their gold medal win of the SKUD 18 class on Fushan Bay Saturday afternoon -- and the spectator fleet went wild when they crossed the finish line in second place to seal the deal.
Although the series was shortened by one race, due to light conditions throughout the week, the American crew never looked like being headed. They opted not to sail the final Race 10, as they did not need to -- the medal was theirs.
"We went out last night to celebrate early and I woke up this morning a little foggy in the head. Everyone has been congratulating us and I think everyone is genuinely happy for us," McKinnon-Tucker commented this afternoon.
A sailor since childhood, Scandone has had numerous successes, and at one stage some years back, looked likely to go to the Olympic Games, but having to make a living stopped him.
He switched to the SKUD class as his Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) diagnosed in 2002, started to take its toll and invited McKinnon Tucker to join him. Despite his condition, which is in the advanced stages, he and the gregarious Mckinnon Tucker sailed every race to win and notched up five victories over nine races -- their worst finish a third place.
Scandone started sailing the 2.4mR Paralympic class in 2004 and ultimately won the World Championship sailed in a fleet of able-bodied and disabled sailors including seven previous world champions and three Paralympic medalists. This result and his total domination of the class earned him the prestigious 2005 Rolex Sailor of the Year award.
McKinnon Tucker is no slouch either. Among her many accolades, she helped the United States qualify in the Sonar at the Athens Paralympics and was the first female ever to represent the United States at the Paralympics.
In fact, she is the first female ever to win a Paralympic sailing medal. "I'm very pleased to be the first woman ever to win a gold medal in Paralympic sailing."
She also pointed out, "Today you will also see the first woman to ever win silver and bronze medals at Paralympics too -- and also in this class." She was right.
The Australian crew of Daniel Fitzgibbon/Rachael Cox moved back up into the silver medal slot today after giving their lead away to the Canadians (John McRoberts/Stacie Louttit) Friday.
In perfect 8-12 knot winds on a lumpy sea, Fitzgibbon steered the boat to a win in Race 9 and second place in Race 10 giving her and COX the silver, while the Canadian duo with whom they had battled all week, scored fourth and third places to win bronze.
Cox, who turned 33 today, said of her silver, "This is such a happy birthday gift for me today."
Fitzgibbon said, "The Canadians were so close to us all series, but we came out better. Both of us performed very well. We showed good consistency and our Australian spirit -- no easy giving up!"
The top three looked the likely medal contenders from day one, their experience showing as the week wore on, but perhaps appropriately, after winning the opening race of the series, Jia Hailiang/Yang Xiujuan (China) came back to win the final race also.