Anna Tunnicliffe of U.S. Wins Gold Medal in Laser Radial Qingdao, China (August 19, 2008) – Anna Tunnicliffe (Plantation, Fla.) finished in second place in today’s Laser Radial medal race to claim gold at her first Olympic Games. Having never won a race in the eight-day series, Tunnicliffe sailed with consistency to win by the tightest of margins.
Tunnicliffe entered the 10-boat, light air medal race defending gold, but after turning back at the start for an individual recall she had potentially taken herself out of the running. She said she wasn’t positive whether she was over early or not, but she wanted to be safe. Her setback left her fighting to keep silver around the first lap, and by the bottom mark she had lost one boat and rounded in second to last. On that last upwind leg, she said, “I saw a puff on the left and said, ‘Well, here it goes.’ It was a risk, but it was a risk worth taking.”
Tunnicliffe shot up to third place at the next mark, putting her in gold and sending the crowd on land into frenzied cheers. She finished the race in second, her fans went ballistic and she had clinched the Olympic gold medal.
Tunnicliffe had opened the event in first place, but dropped down to third after the fifth race when the throwout scores had come into play. She said,” You know in the end consistency will pay, but when they were dropping scores and passing me in the middle of the regatta that was stressful. But my coaches kept telling me it was going to pay off in the end.” Luther Carpenter has coached U.S. sailors to three bronze medals but Tunnicliffe’s is his first gold. He said of the strategy, “The game plan was to stay out of the corners and not sail a drop. This felt good in the beginning but then Lithuania and New Zealand paid off by hitting corners. We asked how long this could continue odds-wise: It’s too unstable of a place to keep playing the sides that hard. It was tempting to go for an end start or hit a side, but you must give her credit she stayed disciplined. At the end she took a risk, she played with what she saw and she was right.” Carpenter continued, “Anna is your dream athlete. She’s a hard worker, in amazing shape, very open to coaching, completely driven and she sees path clearly to winning.”
U.S. Olympic Sailing Program High Performance Director Gary Bodie coached Tunnicliffe at hervery first international event in the beginning of this quad. “Anna only finished in the high teens at that event, but you could see it then,” he said. Fast forward to May 2008 at the Delta Lloyd Regatta in Holland. After she won the first race, Bodie didn’t have to do much coaching at all. “I told her, ‘Anna, if you do that exact same thing again every race we’re going to win by a mile,’ and that’s what happened.” — This report courtesy of US SAILING, http://home.ussailing.org/US_Sailing_Home.htm