The Rio 2016 One Person Dinghy (Laser) fleet will welcome a bumper 46 boats, making it the largest fleet at the Olympic Games.
When racing starts on Monday 8 August at 13:00 local time on the Escola Naval course, a large percentage of the racers will start with high hopes and great expectations.
Laser sailing will see some of the closest, compact racing of any of the Olympic fleets with each sailor receiving a supplied boat, ensuring an even playing field. With races scheduled for inside and outside Guanabara Bay, it will see the best all-round sailor conquer.
2015 and 2016 World Champion Nick Thompson (GBR), London 2012 silver medallist Pavlos Kontides (CYP), World #1 Philipp Buhl (GER), World #2 Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) and 2015 Olympic Test Event winner Francesco Marrai (ITA) will all be major contenders.
However, there is one name on the list of athletes that shines brightly and has achieved more than the entire fleet put together.
Stand up, Brazil’s own Robert Scheidt, one of his country’s most successful Olympians who will carry the hopes of his nation on his shoulders at Rio 2016.
Scheidt is bidding to become the most decorated sailor in history by winning six consecutive medals at six Olympic Games. In fact, this feat, in any sport, has only been achieved once by Hungarian swordsman Aladar Gerevich who won medals at six consecutive Olympiads from 1932 – 1960.
Scheidt won gold in 1996 and 2004 as well as a silver in 2000 in the Laser. He moved into the Men’s Keelboat (Star) after Athens 2004 and won silver in 2008 and bronze in 2012. He stepped back into the Laser in 2013, winning the World Championship for the ninth time.
At 43, Scheidt will be the oldest competitor in the Laser fleet and has signified that the 2016 Olympic Games will be his last. Racing in his home nation, in front of a partisan crowd, Scheidt has an opportunity to engrave his name into Brazilian sporting history for the perfect send off. The 46-boat fleet only includes one other Olympic medallist, and in the pressure pot of Olympic sailing, Scheidt knows how to reach the top.
“The fire, for sure, keeps burning, ” explained Scheidt, “I would really like to get one more medal and I think the mental part is really important at the Games because the pressure is huge.
“Everybody knows they only have that week and that one shot. I’m in a pretty comfortable situation because I’ve already medalled five times. I’ve done all of that. The experience counts a lot and I think I am going to be able to be mentally strong at the Games which will be an important thing.”
A sailor’s mentality at an Olympic Games is vital. Tom Slingsby (AUS) entered the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games as overwhelming favourite in the Laser but things did not go his way. Four years on, older and wiser with Olympic experience behind him he won gold at London 2012.
Great Britain’s Paul Goodison was in with a shot of a medal at his first Olympic Games, Athens 2004, but narrowly missed out. Four years later, at Beijing 2008, he stormed to gold.
With Scheidt’s ‘I know how to get it done’ attitude, he can be considered a favourite, especially as strong, leading contenders like Great Britain’s Thompson, Australia’s Tom Burton and Italy’s Marrai, who all have various accolades, will be sailing at their first Olympic Games.
Apart from Scheidt, only Cyprus’ Kontides holds an Olympic medal in the Laser fleet after he picked up silver at London 2012, which was in fact his nations first ever Olympic medal. Rio 2016 will be Kontides’ third Olympic Games.
Further contenders include Julio Alsogaray (ARG), Jean Baptiste Bernaz (FRA), Juan Ignacio Maegli (GUA), Rutger van Schaardenburg (NED), Sam Meech (NZL), Jesper Stalheim (SWE) and Charlie Buckingham (USA).
The Laser will start racing on Monday 8 August at 13:00 local time on the Escola Naval racing area