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Sunday 31 August 2014

Sailing: Winds of change are bringing kite-surfing to Rio

WM Nixon

Published 10/11/2012 | 05:00

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So, could kite-surfing prove to be the most exciting form of sailing in the 2016 Olympics in Rio?

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Of all the world's capital cities, Dublin is especially aware of the growing impact of windsurfing and kitesurfing. They are both hugely accessible forms of sailing, which can take place off any beach.

And the capital's coast is so well endowed with miles of sand, which can provide world-class sport when the wind is up, that Dublin beach walkers have become connoisseurs of the kiting-versus-sailboards controversy.

So, although it may have discomfited many within the traditional national sailing establishments when sailboarding became an Olympic sport for London 2012, the Dubs were ahead of the posse.

We were already looking to the next move. For we knew that, when surrounded by kitesurfers at choice venues like Dollymount Strand, sailboarders look like dowagers at a disco.

In view of world sailing's desire to appear to be in sync with modern trends, it was no surprise when it was announced that, albeit by the narrowest of voting margins, kitesurfing would replace windsurfing in Rio.

But there has been a compromise. It's likely we will see both windsurfing and kitesurfing at Rio, although the two will be combined in some way so that there won't be an increase in sailing's Olympic medal allocation, which is always under scrutiny.

And that, of course, is the nub of the matter. The place sailing holds in the Olympics is always a cause for debate.

It's not an arena activity, and it's definitely a vehicle sport. It could be that in the future, only the most minimal sailing vehicles will be accepted for Olympic inclusion, those deemed to require sufficient athletic ability to merit being a part of the Games.

Maybe, down the line, we'll look back fondly to the days when boats were used in the Olympics, as kitesurfing in all its forms becomes the only Olympic sailing category.

Irish Independent

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