Austrian afloat for a record 9th try Sailing: Hubert Raudaschl, a 53-year-old celebrity in his own country, decides that preparation is overrated after winning just two medals in eight previous Games

Atlanta Olympics

July 22, 1996|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- When Austrian Hubert Raudaschl's 22-foot keelboat hits the Atlantic Ocean today, he will become the first man in history to have competed in nine Olympic Games.

He says it is 10. He counts the 1960 Games in Rome, where he qualified as an alternate but never left the dock.

Olympic historians insist it is nine. They say you can't simply show up and be considered an Olympian.

Anyway, nine will still be the most ever, covering an amazing 32 years, beginning in Tokyo and hopefully ending right-side up.

All of which greatly irritates a couple of Italian horseback riders and two other sailors, one from Denmark, one from the Bahamas.

They shared the mark with Raudaschl until that fateful day this spring, when he thought: "What the heck? How many other Austrian sailors are there?"

So he teamed with a rookie named Andreas Hanakamp to qualify as his country's entry in yachting's Star division. And here he is, 53, a respected civic leader, a history-maker with one problem: In 32 years he has won only two medals, both silver, and only one in an Olympics that did not involve a boycott.

Raudaschl hasn't finished in the top five in a full-scale Olympics in nearly three decades.

But he has figured out the problem.

"I trained too much," he said. "Way too much preparation.

"That will not happen this year," he added. "This year, I spend much less time in a boat."

About 60-70 days on the water, he said. Not even twice a week.

"That is why Hubert has been around so long," said Hanakamp, 30. "He believes with too much training, you lose your motivation."

Raudaschl is as popular in Austria as Franz Klammer or Thomas Muster. He was chosen to lead his country's campaign against smoking, and was the Austrians' flag bearer in the opening ceremonies.

Not bad for a sailor living 300 miles from the nearest sea.

"He is a role model in our country," said Martin Uitz, director of the Salzburg State Board of Tourism. "He is a sportsman in the true sense of the word."

Nine Olympics, and he's still afloat, which says as much about his country as himself.

"Thank God I was born in Austria," Raudaschl said. "We don't have many sailors, and we have stayed neutral through all the boycotts. If I was in the United States, I would have gone to maybe four Olympics."

Pub Date: 7/22/96

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