Espey realises Olympic dream with strong showing in Germany

The Irish Times – Friday, May 18, 2012James Espey: qualified Ireland in the Laser class for London Games.

DAVID BRANIGAN

SAILING: THE LINE-UP for the London Games sailing regatta swelled in size over the last week as two more boats were added to the Irish Sailing Association’s slate for nomination to the Olympic Council of Ireland.

Ballyholme single-hander James Espey secured qualification for Ireland in the Laser standard rig men’s event following the world championship in Germany after a strong showing over the last six months. “Waking up realising you’re going to the Games is the best feeling in the world,” Espey told The Irish Times. “You semi-relax for 10 minutes and then it’s straight back into training.”

But for Espey, like the other squad members, preparing for the Games is all about taking one result at a time and then putting whatever result happens in the past and focusing on the job ahead, event by event.

“The depth of the class is unbelievable,” he said but he has also been able to deliver top-three individual race result as well.

“Looking back and seeing Tom Slingsby or Paul Goodison crossing behind you is one of the best feelings in the world, knowing you’re up there with the best. Getting to these Games will be fantastic for me, a dream come true. But I don’t want to be just another boat at the back, I want to have great races too.”

Earlier this week, two-times Olympic veteran Ger Owens from the Royal St George YC in Dún Laoghaire together with newcomer Scott Flannigan from Howth YC delivered their qualification standard at the 470 class world championship in Barcelona, which is on-going this weekend.

Less than a year ago, Flannigan was preparing to sit his Leaving Cert before embarking on an 11th hour campaign with Owens. Both the Laser and 470 campaigns have been operating outside official ISA and Irish Sports Council programmes until this year when their recent strong performances brought them into funding support and recognition.

“We’re well funded by the Sports Council but not one of our campaigns comes to being 100 per cent funded,” says ISA performance manager James O’Callaghan. “So with a small pot of money we’ve been very focused on the boats that we felt had the best chance at the Olympics.”

Both campaigns deserve huge credit because they’ve done it outside of the system, according to O’Callaghan. The ISA squad recently secured additional support with sponsorship from Providence Resources and has designated “genuine prospects” to their combined goal for the Games.

A sixth campaign, also unofficial, came close to qualification yesterday when Ross Hamilton in the Finn single-hander placed 48th overall. The week of Olympic class world championship action also saw Peter O’Leary of the Royal Cork YC and David Burrows from Howth narrowly miss a podium result at the Star World Championship having been in the top three for most of the event. The pair was in the running for gold even in the final race.

Meanwhile, after a poor start to her world championship in the Laser Radial, Annalise Murphy from the National YC bounced back to score a race win and second place on Wednesday and again yesterday.

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