Yin Jian, a 29-year-old windsurfer from the inland province of Sichuan, won China’s first ever Olympic gold medal for sailing yesterday after leading the field with a dazzling set of race results in the women’s RS:X class throughout the Qingdao regatta.
Yin, who was the only one of this year’s crop of Chinese sailors to have competed in a previous Olympics, won silver in Athens in 2004 with the Mistral board, the class now superseded by the RS:X. She secured gold this time after coming third in Wednesday’s medal race.
Italy’s Alessandra Sensini won Wednesday’s race and will take silver, while Britain’s Bryony Shaw came second and earned the bronze overall.
Shaw had a scare when the tide pushed her over the start line early, but she was not alone in having miscalculated and there were so many of the 10 competitors in error that there was a general recall and the race was restarted.
Although the day started with a promisingly stiff breeze suitable for windsurfing, the wind faded half an hour before the start of racing, forcing competitors in both the women’s and men’s events to pump their sails furiously to maintain their speed around the course in a test of fitness and muscle power.
In the men’s medal race, New Zealand’s Tom Ashley – neck and neck on points with France’s Julien Bontemps and Britain’s Nick Dempsey at the start - snatched gold in a gruelling race which had the windsurfers desperately “air rowing” in the light breeze.
Bontemps took silver, while the bronze went to Israel’s Shahar Zubari. The Israeli finished second in the medal race and thus made up his points deficit with Dempsey, who came in a disappointing seventh in the race and ended fourth overall.