A month ago, Wired Magazine asked me to write Olympic Sailors More Than Earn the Label ‘Athletes’, which went live on August 1. The article is part of the Wired Playbook, a collection of stories running during the Games that gives an insight into many different sports. Some are written by Olympians about their sport; some are interviews with current athletes; others are about technological advances or athlete safe houses in London. Together, they form a refreshing escape from the hype and medal-focused coverage that we’ve all become inured to.
A few days after the Wired article was published, I realized that I’d left out an important aspect of sailing that—while obvious to sailors—makes it different from many sports: the scoring. Fortunately, Sailing’s Olympic Team Leader Dean Brenner covered it well in a recent post from Weymouth, which I added in a comment below the article:
“For those who don’t know as much about sailing, here is the basic way the scoring works. In 9 of the 10 events (all but the match racing event), all the boats in the fleet race together around the course, much like in a NASCAR race. And at the end of the race, your place is your score (1st place = 1 point.) The lower your score, the better. Over the course of the Games, each event has a series of races (some of them are 11 races, some are more), and at the end of that series the lowest point score wins the gold. In the other event, match racing, the scoring works a little different. The racing is “one on one” as opposed to all at the same time, and it works more like a tennis tournament than a NASCAR race.”
This is why I am the winner of two Olympic races, but not the winner of two gold medals. It’s also why the current record of four sailing medals has been held for over forty years by The Great Dane, Paul Elvstrom—though Britain’s Ben Ainslie looks likely to win a fifth medal in a few days.
I’ve been watching the sailing and other sports, and it never fails to take me back to 2004 and the indescribable experience of standing on the Olympic stage. After every amazing performance, I always search behind the camera’s focus for the other athletes, the ones who didn’t medal—but never gave up. Thank you Wired Magazine, for collecting some of these hidden Olympic stories.