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Ashley Stoddart qualifies Australia for Rio Olympics !

Ashley Stoddart qualifies Australia for Rio Olympics !

Posted in Championships, World Championships by admin.

Qualifying Australia in the Laser Radial for Rio Olympics and Personal Best at the World Championships (11th)

I’ve just returned from a successful trip with a 7th place at the ISAF World Cup Final and 11th at the Laser Radial Women’s World Championship including qualifying the important country spot for Australia for the Rio Olympics next year. 

I firstly competed in the ISAF World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi, UAE and then continued later to our peak event for the year, the Laser Radial Women’s World Championships in Al Mussanah, Oman.  Before leaving for this trip I knew the importance of the World Championships especially with the opportunity and necessity to qualify Australia a country quota spot. There were 4 country spots to be decided in Oman for the Laser Radial.

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I thoroughly enjoyed and thrived in the intensity of the competition at the World Cup final. The top 20 sailors were there to contest for this competition, all being on form with the World Championships only a few weeks away.  In the days leading up to the event we trained in the onshore seabreezes under incredibly hot temperatures and light winds, however when the first race day came around we were faced with unusual offshore, puffy and moderate conditions. Each day the starting time became earlier and earlier, and the race officials decided that the best and fairest winds were to be in the morning. Looking back I feel the intensity of the competition and racing was very beneficial in gearing myself up mentally and physically for the Worlds.

Having never raced at the World Championship Venue of Al Mussanah, Jared West – my coach and I decided to give ourselves the best opportunity by arriving as early as possible. We were there and ready to begin training when the mandatory charter boats were available and this meant we could gradually acclimatize ourselves to the conditions, ensuring the best preparation possible. Of course nothing in life or sailing logistically ever goes to plan, and there is always a bump in the road somewhere along the way. For us, the coachboats that we had arranged never turned up, which was a drama with an existing coachboat shortage. For a few days Jared did a bit of coachboat hopping to ensure he could be on the water with me until the situation was rectified with a solution. 

In the training we did quality speed work with numerous countries and buddies and then some racing organized by the coaches. There was no doubt in the lead up that I had good speed across the conditions, and this was something I was able to rely upon and a foundation of confidence before and during the Worlds. When we began racing I had mixed results in these training races, there were definitely some times of frustration. Despite these ups and downs by Race 1 we were able to problem solve, dust out any cobwebs and iron most of the creases out of any issues and I was ready to give it everything. Will Smith said, “I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill” in reference to someone getting onto one next to him and setting the challenge, well I had set in my mind that this week I was not afraid to die on my boat. Quite an overdramatized phenomenon, however this was the level of commitment I had given to myself.

In terms of results the beginning of the regatta was a slow and steady one, I began the regatta in 30th position after day one and hovered around these standings on the scoreboard throughout the qualifying series. I went into Gold fleet racing in 35th position, however points were close and I knew that this is where the real game started, and I was ready! Each day I climbed my way up the scoreboard, only focusing one race at a time, this was not always an easy feat with many thoughts able to pull me from my focus, especially with respect to the country qualification. But no, start after start, and downwind after windward, followed by the next leg and the next, my attention was directed towards execution. 

Before the last day Jared and I sat down, we spoke about how the regatta had played out so far and we agreed that tomorrow many would crumble under the pressure. We decided that we needed to go out there and excel even in the face of that pressure, the reality was that anyone could ride the pressure bus, however we wouldn’t be sitting at that bus stop.  Sure enough the day evolved with 8 boats disqualified prior to any racing due to numerous black flag general recalls and only one race was then possible due to the 3pm warning signal cut off time. I raced a stellar race, particularly linking the pressure and shifts. A 6th finish in that final race moved me from 18th to 11th overall, and I was the second country to qualify out of the 4 spots available.

I am extremely happy with my results and having qualified Australia our country spot in the Laser Radial. The next step moves to qualifying myself the spot within Australia’s qualification requirements and this is now where my focus lies, inclusive of seeing how far I can take my progress from here.

Next week I will compete in our home ISAF World Cup Final, unfortunately the competition lacks representation from many nations however I will enjoy the opportunity to compete in Melbourne again as I do every year. From there the Laser Nationals will bring in the New Year before the 2016 season of international competition kicks off soon after in Miami in January.

Thank you for your support, kind messages and encouragement and I look forward to what is to come!

Best wishes,

Ashley