The Pão de Açucar beach was filled with cheering fans from an array of nations from different hemispheres. And what better day to be a sailing fan than on a day filled with four adrenaline-charged races.
Every single medal race had heavy stakes at hand and Tuesday was a perfect depiction of what competitive sailing is all about.
The gold medal favorite, Netherlands' Marit Bouwmeester, achieved the predicted.
Bouwmeeter, who won silver at the 2012 London Games, also finished first in the Laser Radial at the 2011 and 2014 World Championships.
Incredible racing from Ireland’s Annalise Murphy, who headed into the medal race 10 points behind Bouwmeester in third place overall, almost took the gold away from Bouwmeester.
Murphy needed to finish five boats ahead of Bouwmeester, which at times looked possible, but in the end Bouwmeester held on to be crowned Olympic champion in the women’s Laser Radial.
Murphy overtook the second overall spot from Anne-Marie Rindom of Denmark to win silver. Rindom took home bronze.
The Netherlands have now won more medals in this event than any other country (four, previously tied with U.S. with three). This is the second sailing medal of the Rio Olympics for the Netherlands; Dorian van Rijsselberghe [pronounced van RICE-il-bare-guh] won gold in the men’s RS:X on Sunday.
American Paige Railey finished 10th overall.
Tom Burton managed the impossible on Tuesday, becoming Olympic champion of the men’s Laser after a roller-coaster journey to get there in his first Olympics.
A continuous lead-changing, thrilling race proved to be nothing short of extraordinary. Burton of Australia was a huge underdog to win gold and headed into the medal race 10 points behind Croatia’s Tonci Stipanovic. But Burton had a plan.
At the start of the race Burton was behind Stipanovic battling for starting position. Burton took a huge gamble by moving downwind (in front) of Stipanovic, in attempt to draw him close enough to make contact to assess a penalty against Stipanovic.
Why was it a gamble?
If moving downwind from Stipanovic failed to draw a penalty, it would have put both boats way behind the fleet and jeopardized the gold for Burton altogether. On top of that, it would have risked Burton’s promising silver medal.
The gamble had two intentions: The first was to draw a penalty from Stipanovic, check. The second was to move through the field and put five boats between Burton and Stipanovic for Burton to secure gold.
And the gamble paid off.
Stipanovic made contact with Burton, and after a successful protest from Burton, Stipanovic was forced to do a penalty turn. This was a crucial moment for Burton to set himself up for the top spot on the podium.
However, Burton still had some catching up to do; there still weren’t five boats in between him and Stipanovic. He needed to pass New Zealand’s Sam Meech to make that happen.
Meech was in third place, Burton was in fourth and the end of the race was nearing.
In a stroke of luck, Meech lost speed on the final turn and Burton passed him. His plan was complete and Burton became an Olympic gold medalist.
Stipanovic won silver and Meech won bronze.
Joy rushed through Scott Giles as he bowed his head and accepted the gold medal during the men’s Finn victory ceremony. He is now the Olympic champion of the men’s Finn after four years of hard work and moreover, patiently waiting to follow in the footsteps of Britain’s most decorated sailor, Sir Ben Ainslie.
Giles had clinched gold before the medal race even began. His points total was low enough that no competitor could score lower than him.
Vasilij Zbogar of Slovenia headed into the medal race in second overall with 56 net points and was nearly impossible to catch. Croatia’s Ivan Gaspic was in third place with 69 net points.
The real battle was for bronze between Gaspic, American Caleb Paine and Sweden’s Max Salminen, both with 74 net points.
And a battle it was.
In the end, Paine dominated the medal race and led most of way finishing first. Uncharacteristic performances from Gaspic and Salminen boosted Paine to the bronze medal position.
During the victory ceremony, all Paine could do is look down at his bronze medal and smile. Paine has won the first medal in sailing for the United States since 2008.
Tears ran down Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza cheeks as they faced their flag atop of the podium and sang along to the Argentinian national anthem.
Carranza and teammate Lange, a six-time Olympian and oldest sailing athlete at the Rio Olympics at 54 years old, are Olympic champions in the Nacra 17.
Australia’s Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin won silver after climbing two spots from their fourth overall finish heading into the medal race. Italy’s Vittorio Bissaro and Silvia Sicouri finished seventh in the medal race, which dropped them out of the podium to fifth overall. Austria’s Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank maintained at third overall and took home bronze.
New Zealand’s Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have already clinched gold heading into the medal race on Thursday. They have scored low enough (33 net points) in the opening series that no competitior can score lower to take the lead (similar to golf, the lower the points the better).
Germany's Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel head into the medal race with 67 net points, Australia's Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen have 70 and Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Alain Sign of Great Britain have 80. They are the top contenders for bronze.
Americans Joe Morris and Thomas Barrows did not advance to the medal race.
The women's side is sure to please in the medal race. Three crews are tied for first in net points with 46, Spain's Tamara Dominguez and Berta Betanzos, Brazil's Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze? and Denmark's Jena Hansen and Katja Salskoc-Iversen. New Zealand's Alex Maloney and Molly Meech, however, are only one point behind with 47. These are the only boats in medal contention heading into the medal race.
Team USA's Paris Henken and Helena Scutt, advance to the medal race but are out of medal contention.