After long road to Athens, Hall stands seventh in Finn

Yngling crew opens with a second, then falters to fifth place overall

Sailing

Athens 2004

August 15, 2004|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

ATHENS -- Kevin Hall wasn't sure he was coming to the Olympics until July 7, the day Olympic and anti-doping officials cleared him for competition.

Hall, of Bowie, is a survivor of testicular cancer and must take weekly injections of testosterone to replace what his body no longer produces.

But the veteran America's Cup sailor prevailed in a lengthy appeals process and yesterday made his Olympic debut.

Three of the nine yachting classes set sail yesterday under a cloudless blue sky: Finn, Yngling and men's and women's double-handed dinghy-470.

At the end of the first day of competition, Hall was tied for seventh place in the 25-boat Finn class. Hall took up competitive Finn sailing only a year ago.

Last week, he came in second in the voting for the athlete to carry the U.S. flag in the opening ceremony. Other team members are wearing the yellow "Live Strong" bracelets made famous by another athlete and cancer survivor, cyclist Lance Armstrong, to show their support for Hall.

"I feel lucky to be here," Hall said in a statement. "I just wish I'd had slightly more luck on the race course."

Hall was the only U.S. sailor to improve from his first race to his second. His teammates started strong, faded a bit and learned a lot in the first day of Olympic competition in the Saronic Gulf.

In the first Olympic Yngling competition, Rhode Island skipper Carol Cronin and crew Liz Filter of Stevensville and Nancy Haberland of Annapolis are in fifth place overall with nine races to go. They finished second in the first race and battled from last in the 16-boat fleet to 10th place in the second race.

Despite the stumble, the women said they were happy with how they handled the pressure of their first Olympics and how they were able to adjust under race conditions.

"We had a really good comeback in that second race," Cronin said. "Changing gears is one of the things we're been working on the last six months."

The Danish trio of Dorte Jensen, Helle Jespersen and Christina Borregaard-Otzen, ranked No. 1 in the world, had a wildly inconsistent day, crossing the line 32 seconds ahead of Cronin in the first race, but tumbling to 14th place in the second race.

The winds started at 7 knots and built to 12 knots. But the famous "Meltemi," shifting northerly winds that kick up in the afternoon, stayed away.

In the Finn class, Poland's Mateusz Kusznierewicz, the gold-medal winner in 1996, is on top of the standings, with third- and first-place finishes.

After U.S. sailors Paul Foerster of Texas and Kevin Burnham of Miami took their first race in the men's 470, they fell back to ninth after the cover of their spinnaker halyard separated from its core at the first mark of the second race and they were unable to secure it.

Great Britain's team of Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield, with second- and third-place finishes, earned first place overall.

One of Greece's best hopes for a gold medal -- Sofia Bekatorou and Aimilia Tsoulfa -- lived up to their pre-race billing, winning their first race and then coming in second in the women's 470. The U.S. crew of Katie McDowell of Rhode Island and Isabelle Kinsolving of New York are in 13th place in the 20-boat field.

Postcard from Athens

ATHENS -- No images of the surface-to-air missile batteries. No photos of the naval frigate bobbing in the Saronic Gulf. No pictures of the unmarked blimps cruising overhead.

Those are just a few of the "nos" being imposed by security forces on those covering the regatta at the Agios Kosmas Olympic Sailing Centre. Just to make sure that everyone plays by the rules, there are three "military liaisons" at the venue -- one in the broadcast center and one in each of the helicopters providing aerial coverage of the races -- with their fingers on the edit buttons.

If those poised digits don't keep the security blanket snugly in place, there's always those guided rockets.

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