Well I have just returned from coaching at the ISAF World Sailing Championships at Perth, Australia, and it was certainly an interesting regatta and overall a very positive one with so many learning points to take forward to 2012. From here the only way is up.
Despite not having the best result on paper the first thing to mention is Lijia Xu qualified for the Olympics so the first and main objective has been met. It was a difficult regatta which could have easily gone the other way but she showed her true strength of character.
Coming off a win at Sail Melbourne Lijia was keen to get racing, unfortunately a little too keen and was caught over the line in the first race. It must have been very close indeed and I had a chat with the race officer who kindly let me listen to the tapes which shows she was over in the very last second, just accelerating that little bit too fast.
Her disappointment was not with the lost race but that fact she did not get a chance to race. Having been looking forward to the Worlds for so long it was frustrating not to join in.
However the next race she made amends with a solid second place, although unfortunately she had an incident at the windward mark with another boat. I checked the notice board before leaving the club and there were no postings at all. I asked the girls who said there were no protests and I checked the time, which was well after the time for protests to be in. There were also several of the Chinese translators there so I felt safe to go home.
Upon arriving home I checked the results to find that there had been a protest and Lijia had been disqualified. Not wishing to rob her of a good night’s sleep we just went for a long walk and a talk and so she was unaware until the morning.
Fortunately there had indeed been some issues with the posting of protests which had gone up several minutes too late. Lijia handled herself very well in the pre-hearing and got the protest re-opened. Due to thunderstorms there was no racing that day and we held the protest. Again Lijia spoke very well in the protest room but ultimately lost. The emotional tiredness was obvious as she slept most of the way home.
With just one more day of racing before selection for the Gold fleet Lijia sailed an extremely solid day with 11, 9, 9 putting aside the difficult first day and showing her true strength she qualified for the Gold fleet by just a few points.
Safely in the Gold fleet which was based on the top 50% of sailors after the initial three days Lijia came out with a bang scoring 2, 2, before a disappointing 26. To me this clearly showed what she is capable of, and the poorer result gave us points to work on. Indeed not a single sailor had three top results that day.
The final day of Gold fleet racing and getting into the medal race was a tough call. My advice was simply to do your best and see what happens. She knows she can win and a third place in the first race of the day brought her ever closer, until it transpired she had again been over the line. A ninth in the final race saw her finish 25th and qualify for a spot in the Olympics. A great result considering she was counting two disqualifications (there was only one discard in the series).
We now return to China for more physical training before taking to the water again after Christmas. The road to the Olympics goes on…