Sunday, August 17, 2008

Success Story

Dean Brenner has this line: "There was a time when the only thing I knew about Zach Railey was that he's Paige's brother."

No more.

Zach quietly but relentlessly laid the groundwork for the silver medal that he just captured in Qingdao. He lived years on the wavelength of cautiously telling people he was looking toward 2012. While passionately pursuing, etc.

There's another dimension too. Zach knew then and he knows now: "Past Olympians say, remember to step back and enjoy the moment; it's gone before you know it. This whole year just flew by. I was in the U.S. maybe 30 days."

And there's another figure in this saga: Kenneth Andreasen, Railey's coach for five years in Optis, beginning when Zach was nine and peaking (for example) when Zach at 11 was the youngest sailor to qualify for and compete in the 1995 Opti Worlds. High-level coaching is a prominent theme for each member of the US Sailing Team.

After finishing fourth at the pre-trials in 2006, Zach says, "I re-evaluated. The one thing missing was the right coach. There has to be a high level of mutual comfort and trust, no second-guessing, and when you find that one person, you know it. When Kenneth says 'jump' I say, how high."

Now the press is discovering and Americans will soon know what a smart, well-spoken, focused, driven competitor Zach Railey is. It was a big win for him to kick off Olympic competition ahead of Ben Ainslie, then close it with Ainslie covering his every move. This 24-year-old from Florida has made something of himself in the last two years, and Ainslie has to consider that he could be crowded at the front of the Finn ranks, come 2012.

The Playbill:

Ben Ainslie being The Man in this class, now with a third gold medal on top of the silver that he took in Lasers in his first Olympiad. With the 2012 Games coming to Britain, his home country, Ainslie will be very tempted to go hunting for a fourth successive gold medal to tie the so-far-unmatched record of Paul Elvstrøm. And that will be a show to watch, beginning, oh, about the day after tomorrow.

Dean Brenner being the chair of US Olympic sailing.

Paige Railey being the past world female sailor of the year that Anna Tunnicliffe had to get through to win the U.S. Trials.

Zach being the brother who has a piece of Paige inside his head, and vice versa.

The devil in the details (for Ainslie) being a competing America's Cup match in 2012 or not. It's an unlikelihood that no one can do much to help or prevent. But Ainslie has America's Cup ambitions. He was part of Team New Zealand in 2007, and he chose to skipper the B boat rather than be a part of the afterguard on the A boat. All part of his own longterm thinking. Big Ben, as some of the British writers like to call him, doesn't see himself as anything less than in charge. Neither did Sir Keith Mills when he hired Ainslie to helm for the British challenger, Team Origin, in the alleged next America's Cup. Whenever and whatever that may be. But let's not sink into that quagmire, not now.

The Olympics are on and the US Olympic team is putting up a great show in Qingdao. That includes the up and comers who won't make their medals races but have proved they can win a race or two at the Olympics. And this is a young team as Brenner will not have us forget.

For Sally, Debbie, and Carrie I'm still feeling the ouch—Kimball