The International Sailing Federation, the sport’s governing body decided at its annual meeting in Dun Laoghaire that Windsurfing will – after all – remain in the Olympic programme for Rio 2016 having previously decided to replace it with Kiteboarding .
That applies to both the men’s and women’s event and naturally the decision has had a mixed reaction depending on one’s preferences.
The original decision – back in May 2012 – took both administrators and competitors by surprise but at subsequent internal meetings delegates – led by Spain – suggested that the decision had been made ‘due to language difficulties’.
The ISAF had themselves described the move as a “fantastic addition” but windsurfing federations vowed to pressure sailing chiefs to reinstate their sport.
Indeed some of the top British and Irish windsurfers felt that that decision was crazy – among those expressing their shock at the time was British windsurfer Nick Dempsey, who later claimed silver at the 2012 Olympics; he described the decision as “bizarre” even before the Olympics.
According to BBC Sport, Israel’s sailing chief Yehuda Maayan revealed that, in voting for kiteboarding, delegates had ‘probably been confused’ or perhaps ‘did not understand the motion because of ambiguous language translations’.
Four-time kiteboarding world champion Steph Bridge told the BBC after the ISAF’s Dun Laoghaire Annual Conference decision to reverse the May outcome:
“I am really gutted, as myself & Oliver (eldest son, aged 15) had a really great chance to represent GB for the men’s and women’s events at Rio 2016.
“Oliver will still have a huge chance when kiteboarding makes it back in 2020 but for me this will probably be four years too late.
“What I know is that tomorrow I will wake up and want to go kiteboarding. The passion is huge and will continue.
“Every athlete wants to win a gold medal but if this is too late for me, I hope I can help someone else to make this dream come true.”
The Spanish Sailing Federation agreed that its representative voted for kiteboarding ‘by mistake’.
The Royal Yachting Association has been among those campaigning for windsurfing and its performance director, John Derbyshire, said: “This is what the membership of the RYA asked for.
“We have a very strong youth pathway and some 10,000 windsurfing members of the RYA, so on their behalf we are delighted with the decision.
“We obviously have great compassion towards the kiteboarding community, with whom we have been working very closely, and I am sure that they will continue to work very closely with both the RYA and ISAF families with a view to gaining inclusion for the discipline in future Olympic Games.
“We can now look forward to preparing for Rio 2016 with the clarity that this decision brings.”