Irish Olympic medal in Sailing a real possibility

Updated: February 21, 2012

The 2012 Olympics will see the sport of sailing very much in the media eye again as hopes of a medal are high with such as Annalise Murphy, Ryan Seaton, Matt McGovern,David Burrows and Peter O’Leary leading the way.

Today we learn a little about Peter O’Leary from Crosshaven who was introduced to sailing early by his family. “Being from Crosshaven, you kinda had to sail, it was sink or swim,” he told the “Cork Independent” in an in depth interview.

“I was lucky, being from Crosshaven,” he says, “we have a number of Olympians, and got great coaching from people like Mark Mansfield, who competed at three Olympics”. In Crosshaven, it wasn’t strange to see Olympians, which made the goal of getting to the Olympics all the more attainable. If that didn’t make it realistic, at least it made the Olympics attainable.

As we reported here on SportsNewsIreland , Peter O’Leary and partner David Burrows qualified for the London Olympics back in December in Perth when they were ninth at the ISAF World Sailing Championships. The top 11 nations qualified, with O’Leary and Burrows securing their berth in the Star class.

They have been consistently in the top 10 in World and European championships with occasional podium performances suggesting that hopes of a podium finish are not unreasonable despite being up against the world’s best in the Star class.

“Qualifying for Beijing, I was a lot more elated,” he told the ‘ Cork Independent’ “Now qualifying is seen more as a stepping stone to what we had planned after Beijing.”

“Qualifying at the first available opportunity makes life a lot easier”. He explains that competition for places is such that a lot of very strong sailing countries will miss out on places in Weymouth, where the sailing competition will take place.

Burrows and O’Leary are comfortable with the pressure of competing for a medal. O’Leary says they are looking for “a place on the podium at least”. “We’ve had results at the venue, including a gold medal there in 2010”. Most of their main rivals also featured in that race, including the current Olympic gold medallists.

The Irish contingent looked very much ‘at home’ also at last year’s Olympic test event in Weymouth and Portland and their intimate knowledge of the course will surely help them in the Olympics

“It will almost be like sailing in Cork Harbour,” says O’Leary. “Conditions are so similar, so we are very confident of doing well. It’s the closest we will ever get to a home Olympics.” The pressure, he said is “something to look forward to rather than slink away from”. “We wouldn’t have put our hats in the ring if we didn’t think we could stand on a box”, the Crosshaven man told the ‘Cork Independent’ . “There are 10 or 12 others capable of a podium finish, in any class,” he says, “but we are not afraid to think we can win”.

Some 15 rival boats will line up in the Star class race in London in August. Getting there has already made O’Leary a success, but he wants more than that. Let’s hope he can transform his ability into something tangible.

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