Germany Wins Bronze Medal in Rio Men's Skiff Sailing Event
RIO DE JANEIRO — In a heart-stopping finale, first-time Olympians Erik Heil and Thomas Plößel seized the bronze medal in the men's 49er Skiff class at the 2016 Games. The team had great results over the first week of preliminary racing, situating them in second place overall going into the final, double-points medal race to determine the podium. The gold medal was already secure for the team from New Zealand, and Heil and Plößel were battling against two other teams to determine who would win silver and bronze. Enlarge image (© Sailing Energy/ World Sailing)
After a bad start to the race, during which Heil and Plößel almost lost control of their boat and capsized, they caught back up to the fleet and started to work their way up. The race was two laps followed by a final sprint, for a total of five rounding marks. Heil and Plößel were neck and neck with Great Britain at the back of the fleet, the only boat they'd have to beat to ensure themselves a podium place. At the fourth mark, Great Britain capsized and had trouble righting their boat, giving Heil and Plößel the opportunity to pass the British team and finish the race in eighth (of ten). The medal race scores are added to the total scores from the entire week, placing Heil and Plößel in third overall and earning them the bronze medal.
"It was really shifty, really gusty so we came really bad out of the start," says Heil. "We're in the defensive position from the beginning on, but it's difficult to play all the shifts. I think the other guys did it better so they deserved silver for Australia." Enlarge image (© Sailing Energy/ World Sailing)
Heil and Plößel were ranked third in the world by governing body World Sailing before the Olympic regatta began. During training in Rio in 2015, Heil contracted a drug-resistant bacterial infection in his leg, requiring surgery. Heil says the infection came from polluted water in Guanabara Bay getting into a scrape on his leg. Heil made a full recovery and the team continued to perform well throughout the next year and a half, ultimately putting them on the podium in Rio.
"I'm really really happy to have that medal won, that is something I have always dreamed of," says Plößel. "It's a good introduction for us for the first ever Olympics winning a medal."
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, from New Zealand, won gold, while Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen won silver.
Lisa Gabrielson, Associate Editor at Sailing World Magazine