With the Tokyo Olympics having been postponed as a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic, and very few regattas since March 2020, there's a lot of uncertainty about who will be sailing at their best in 2 weeks. This article from top Laser and ILCA dinghy coach Jon Emmett gives a great overview of the upcoming competition. Here's 10 sailors I'm keeping a close eye on during the most important event in dinghy sailing. In no particular order...
Laser Radial (ILCA 6) Women
This is a class which has been dominated by two names over the course of the quad, but there's a number of 'up and comers' who have been challenging the established afterguard of the fleet. One of those is the Greek debutant Vasiliea Karachaliou. Working under the guidance of multiple Olympian Tamas Ezses of European Sailing Academy, Vasiliea is a sailor who has transformed herself from a lightwind specialist to solid all rounder with Top 5 placings in her last three events, it looks like she's coming in to form just in time for the Games.
Laser Men (ILCA 7)
In what is commonly regarded as the most competitive Olympic class, the Laser Men has up to 10 guys who could take home the Gold on their day. Despite narrowly missing out at the last two World Championships, I think it's hard to look past Aussie representative Matt Wearn. With his last result outside the top 5 coming in January 2019, Wearn's consistency stands out above the rest. The only question marks come from his lack of Olympic experience, and lack of international competition since the start of the Pandemic.
With 2-second place finishes in the Cascais 49er FX Championships, Spain's Tamara Echegoyen and Paula Barcelo look to be in good form prior to the Olympics. Added to the fact this team won the FX World Championships in 2020, I'm putting them up as favourites for this event.
Given his past dominance in the class, it's always hard to look beyond British sailor Giles Scott. That being said, I'm putting my money on New Zealand's Josh Junior. Having won the 2019 Finn Gold Cup, Junior had the entire lockdown to train with Emirates Team New Zealand teammate, 2021 Finn Gold Cup winner, and now coach - Andy Maloney. I'm a big believer in the power of collaboration, and this is a world beating partnership.
RS:X Men and Women
These two classes have been combined purely due to the fact that there is one country which stands out above the rest - the Netherlands. With both of these athletes having won the last two RS:X World Championships, they know how to perform on the biggest stage. Kiran Badloe and Lilian de Geus are my picks for the two windsurfing events.
Despite being a slightly smaller fleet, this is one which is extremely difficult to pick. The bookmakers have the Japanese team of Ai Kondo Yoshida and Miho Yoshioka as favourites with a 25% chance of winning. With plenty of Olympic experience and good results throughout the quad, this team makes a pretty good pick, but I'm going for current world number 1 Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre. This pair have been extremely consistent throughout the quad, and have had the benefit of racing in a number of international events post-lockdown.
Although there are questions about the form after the pandemic, Australian team of Mat Belcher and Will Ryan have been the pacesetters in this class since 2016, and I'll back them to be able to perform when the time comes.
Nacra 17 Mixed
Argentinian Olympic Champions of Santi Lange and Cecilia Carranza Seroli are said to be the favourites with a 29% chance of winning, but I think the Australian pair of Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin are sure to come out firing, having consistently ranked inside the top 10 throughout the Olympic cycle.
If there's one class you can predict quite comfortably, it's sure to be the 49er Men. Given a 69% chance of victory by the bookmakers, the Kiwi duo of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke seem to be able to win in any boat they sail. Despite America's Cup duties throughout 2020, they're sure to have been getting some time in on the water against the strong Kiwi 49er squad to keep them sharp.
Disagree with any of my takes here? Be sure to let me know who you're backing and why!