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OLYMPIC FOCUS : Sailors' bonus plan shelved

A PRIVATE plan to reward Ireland's Olympic sailors with ?100,000 medal bonuses in Athens has been shelved because of the Olympic Council of Ireland's (OCI) objections.

The OCI'S Chef de Mission Willie O'Brien spoke warmly of their relationship with the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) yesterday.

And he made no reference to the controversial 'performance bonus' scheme at the ISA's official launch of their nine-sailor, six-boat Athens team, also attended by Ireland's only sailing medallists, in 1980, David Wilkins and Jamie Wilkinson.

One of its organisers, former ISA president Paddy Maguire, said yesterday that the project "has been shelved.

"The Olympic Council did not want us to pursue it for whatever reasons, if it's not to be, it's not to be," he said.

"The most important thing here is the athletes themselves and ensuring their preparations are not interrupted."

However, while Maguire insisted the project was sidelined, it is believed that some sort of a 'reward scheme' is still in the offing.

It will not have any official ties to the ISA and will not be publicised and thus avoid any further sanctions from the OCI who had objected to the bonus scheme on the grounds that it was "discriminatory".

On current rankings just two Irish boats have real Athens medal prospects though Ireland's talented squad may yet produce others in the top 10.

Four-time Cork Olympian Mark Mansfield and his young Crosshaven partner Killian Collins (Star Class) are currently ranked fifth in the world and Malahide's David Burrows (Finn Class) won bronze in this year's World Championships.

IRISH SAILING TEAM FOR ATHENS - M Coleman (Europe Class), D Burrows (Finn Class), R Fitzpatrick (Laser), T Fitzpatrick and F Brown (49er), G Owens and R Killian (470), M Mansfield and K Collins (Star).