Robertson wins gold and a good hair day

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Shirley Robertson will be making an impromptu appointment at an Athens hairdresser after wrapping up her Olympic business a day early.

The British sailor on Thursday secured her country's first gold medal of the Games, putting in two more rock-solid performances along with crew, Sarahs Ayton and Webb, to leave her rivals with an insuperable margin to close in Saturday's final race.

And there was more good news for Britain from the waters of the Saronic Gulf, with both Ben Ainslie in the Finn class and Nick Rogers and Jonathan Glanfield in the double-handed 470 now assured of at least silver medals.

With further medal possibilities next week, the British sailing team is on course to match or outstrip even Sydney's impressive tally of three golds and two silvers. In the meantime, the Olympic medals table should make much healthier reading for British fans by Saturday night.

“I really don't know how to react, we're just so thrilled, we've worked so hard and it's all the more sweet to be sharing this moment with my crew,” said an elated Robertson as she stepped from her keelboat having cemented a new Y-word “Yngling” into Britain's Olympic lexicon.

“No way, I'm getting my hair done!” she replied when asked whether the trio, who have become known in some circles (with a lamentable lack of political correctness) as “three blondes in a boat”, would be lining up for Saturday's 11th and final race. “I think the last thing any of us wants to do is get back in that boat after all we've been through in the last three years.”

Having won gold in Sydney in the single-handed Europe class four years ago, Robertson transferred to the Yngling, a new class for the Olympics, and her results have been mixed to date. Losing a crew-member to injury a year and a half ago was a significant blow and Robertson even had difficulties funding her £36,000 boat. “The boat is owned by 36 people back home who all put £1,000 in, so dangling the gold medal in front of them will repay their belief.” In Athens, however, Robertson has proved the most consistent performer, having finished inside the top-10 of the 16-strong fleet in every race. With crews able to discard only one poor performance, this sort of consistency is the key to Olympic sailing success.

Nonetheless, it has not been easy: “It has been a struggle, but this week even when we have been last at the first mark, we've found the way to pull through,” she said. “Athens is certainly not our strongest conditions and we had to work on our light-weather speed and really raise our game to be competitive. I'm overwhelmed that we've put it all together and made it happen.”

Elsewhere, Ainslie has virtually destroyed the single-handed Finn class since being disqualified from race two and is now an imposing 14 points clear of his nearest rival. “”on Thurs“d” Rogers and Glanfield were on Thursday leap-frogged in the overall standings in the men's 470 class by the US team whom they now need to beat by two places to take gold. “” * Greek sailors Sofia Becatorou and Emilia Tsoulfa, world champions in the women's 470 class for the past four years, on Thursday delighted the host nation by taking the Olympic gold medal in the event.

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