Rio heavyweight challenge - 23 sailors, one goal

Here are the 23 Finn sailors who will be going head to head over the next two weeks for the ultimate prize of Olympic gold. Only three of these sailors will win a medal in what is widely regarded as one of the toughest and most physical of Olympic events.

Here are the 23 Finn sailors who will be going head to head over the next two weeks for the ultimate prize of Olympic gold. Only three of these sailors will win a medal in what is widely regarded as one of the toughest and most physical of Olympic events.

The sailors range from 21 to 40 years old. Some are competing at their first Olympics, while some are competing at their fifth Olympics. Some dream of an Olympic medal while others already have one.

But they all have one goal - winning a medal in Rio

The profiles below can be downloaded as a handy PDF (together with lots more information) here. (1Mb). There are also links to further interviews from the past few years

A zipped file of all the photos can be downloaded here. (22Mb)

Facundo Olezza (ARG)

Facundo Olezza is the youngest of the Finn sailors competing in Rio at 21. He started sailing the Finn in February 2015, when he grew too big to sail the Laser, also after some 49er sailing in Argentina. When he switched to the Finn he joined the Dinghy Academy in Valencia and has not looked back. He has only competed in six major events in his Finn career, but his coach, Luca Devoti, sees enormous potential in the young sailor. Having spent most of the year recovering from injury, he sailed the Sailing World Cup Miami with a partially healed broken hand to qualify Argentina for the South American place in Rio, practicing and learning new techniques over the New Year to be able to race. Facundo Olezza overcomes injury to secure dream place at Rio Olympics

Jake Lilley (AUS)

Jake Lilley stands head and shoulders over most of the fleet and is beginning to show a lot of potential on the racecourse with several top results in the past year. He qualified Australia for Rio in 2014 but then had an extended trials against Oliver Tweddell that only ended after the Gold Cup this year, after both sailors raised their game enough for a 1, 2 finish in Hyeres. An intensely physical sailor Lilley started sailing Finns in 2012, when at 2 metres tall and 96 kg he had outgrown the Laser. He soon found his way in the Finn and early on set himself some very high goals, and with his then coach, John Bertrand, won the 2014 Junior European title. Jake Lilley bridges the experience gap as he prepares for Rio Finn contest Interview (March 2013)

Jorge Zarif (BRA)

Jorge Zarif was the youngest sailor in the Finn fleet at the 2012 Olympics, just 19, but one year later went on to win the world title in Tallinn, Estonia. He has been mainly coached by Rafa Trujillo during this cycle, and has had moderate success at some regattas, notably winning the Miami World Cup in 2016 against a top class field. Zarif has been competing in the Finn since 2008 when he was just 15. Though he sails from the Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro, his hometown is São Paulo, where he won his seventh Brazilian national title in February. He is now just two short of the record set by his father, the late Jorge Zarif Zeto, who competed in the Finn in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. Interview (March 2014)

Tom Ramshaw (CAN)

Tom Ramshaw only took up Finn sailing at the end of 2015 after taking a break from the Laser, when it was suggested he try the boat. He immediately knew it was the boat for him, qualified Canada for Rio at the SWC Miami in January 2016 and then produced an outstanding 10th place at his first overseas Finn event at the Europeans in Barcelona. He followed that with six weeks training at the Dinghy Academy in Valencia before placing eighth at the Finn Gold Cup in Gaeta, to be selected shortly after. His progress after just nine months in the boat has been nothing short of astonishing. Canadian hopeful Tom Ramshaw loving the physical side of Finn sailing

Lei Gong (CHN)

Lei Gong is sailing his third Olympic campaign and Rio will be his second Olympics. His best result of this cycle was a seventh at this year’s Miami World Cup, including a string of top seven places. While China does have a strong fleet of Finn sailors, they rarely appear at international events. Gong is no exception having sailed only eight ranking events since 2012. He goes into the Olympics as one of the lowest ranked sailors, but three places higher than in 2012. His first international event was the Europeans in 2004 where he picked up the bronze medal in the Junior European championship.

Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic (CRO)

Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic is one of the most experienced sailors in the fleet with an excellent record of regatta wins and top finishes. However since claiming his third European title last year he has failed to live up to expectations, as seen in his drop from world No 1 in October 2015 to his current 12th. This is perhaps largely due to a tense and often heated Olympic trials against Milan Vujasinovic, which was only settled at the Finn Gold Cup this year. However Gaspic is a formidable sailor in all conditions and generally one of the most consistent sailors on the circuit.

Jonas Høgh-Christensen (DEN)

Jonas Høgh-Christensen has the knack of peaking at just the right time, and is one of the smartest sailors on the circuit. After a disappointing 2008 Olympics where he was one of the favourites he took several years off. He won his second Finn Gold Cup in 2009 after a year out of the boat, before coming back a year later with a superb campaign for London 2012. After that he went back to the music industry in Denmark before coming out of retirement for a second time in 2014. His results over the last year show a familiar upward trend as he heads into his fourth Olympics in the Finn. 'Experience will be key' says Jonas Høgh-Christensen as he heads into fourth Olympics in the Finn

Deniss Karpak (EST)

Deniss Karpak moved into the Finn after the 2008 Olympics after he got too big for the Laser and has been a regular in the top 20, occasionally top 10 ever since, including winning races at all levels. He led the 2016 Finn Gold Cup early on before suffering on the windier days at the end. Even though he is one of the tallest and biggest sailors in the fleet he seems to produce his best in the lighter trickier winds, which could bode well for Rio. Karpak has won the Sailor of the Year in Estonia on numerous occasions and was the Best Young Athlete of the Year in Estonia in 2007. Olympic dreams run in the family for Deniss Karpak

Tapio Nirkko (FIN)

Tapio Nirkko is a very tall and strong sailor, as well as a very hard to predict sailor. He is clearly capable of beating everyone on his day but has often struggled with consistency when it counts. For many years he has been the only competitve Finn sailor in Finland. On the occasions when he has put it all together he is a force to be reckoned with, and picking up the silver medal at the 2015 Test Event in Rio was not only the best regatta he has ever sailed, but also a sign of his true potential. He is one of a few sailors who have spent huge amounts of time training in Rio, so should have a good handle on the conditions to remain consistent.

Jonathan’s Lobert (FRA)

Jonathan’s Lobert’s bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics was until late in 2015 his only major medal in the Finn class. For many years he failed to convert his potential into a medal, except at Weymout. He has a very athletic style in the boat, especially downwind. Now that he has overcome his medal shortage with a silver at the 2015 Finn Gold Cup, his confidence has blossomed and he is one of the top favourites in Rio. His selection for Rio was almost assured after long time training partner Thomas Le Breton dropped out of the race, allowing Lobert to focus on training in Rio, and he has done a lot of that. Jonathan Lobert aiming to better his London bronze in Rio

Giles Scott (GBR)

Giles Scott goes into the Olympics as the absolute favourite after only being beaten twice in the last five years. Apart from gear failure in Palma this year, he is unbeaten since April 2013. He has spent considerable time in Rio training and has only competed in four major regattas since last year’s test event. Many thought he would have won gold at London 2012 given the chance, but he lost out to Ben Ainslie for selection. Now he finally has his chance and following his recent win at the Weymouth World Cup he will go into the Games as reigning world champion and World No. 1. Interview (August 2011) Rio Finn favourite Giles Scott taking nothing for granted

Ioannis Mitakis (GRE)

Ioannis Mitakis first appeared in a Finn in 2009 and took the Junior European title twice before moving on to taking the 2012 senior European title in very light and shifty winds. A clearly talented sailor, he has upped his game since London 2012 and is regularly in the top ten at major events, including winning many races but has yet to take a medal at a major event since the 2012 win. Though historically better in lighter winds, he has also improved in a breeze to become a great all round sailor and should be challenging the front in Rio.

Zsombor Berecz (HUN)

Zsombor Berecz moved into the Finn after two Olympics in the Laser and immediately started producing results. Coming from Lake Balaton, he made the decision early on to join the Dinghy Academy in Valencia and has clearly benefitted from training there ever since. Going into the Games he perhaps lacks regatta practice, preferring to train in his Valencia group, having only competed in three events since last year’s test event, but picked up silver at the Europeans this year, the highest placed Hungarian ever at an International Finn championship. Interview (March 2014)

Giorgio Poggi (ITA)

Giorgio Poggi won perhaps the most intense of all the Olympic trials to earn his space in Rio, fighting all the way to the Finn Gold Cup this year when a fifth place earned him his ticket. After sailing in Qingdao in 2008, and narrowly missing the medal race, he lost a close 2012 trials. This time around he has been coached by Emilios Papathanasiou, and is sailing as well as he has ever done. He has certainly raised his game for the selections, producing his best ever result at the Finn Gold Cup.The question is whether he can continue this form through to the Games. Between 2002 to 2008 Poggi won six gold medals in different classes at the Italian national championships. Full focus for second Olympics in Finn for Giorgio Poggi

Pieter-Jan Postma (NED)

Pieter-Jan Postma is undoubtedly the most popular sailor on the circuit with a very positive and introspective outlook, but this has been as much hindrance as a help, as he has been prone to taking unnecessary risks. He was heading for a medal in London 2012, but for a last minute rash move. Since then has refocussed and is more calm than ever before. His European title win this year comes amid a string of podium potential performances over the last 12 months, including leading the 2015 Test Event every day, only losing gold on the punishing medal race, something that he intends to rectify this year. Pieter-Jan Postma ready for a beautiful Finn fight in Rio

Anders Pedersen (NOR)

Anders Pedersen is one of the rising stars of the Finn fleet. After a seminal 2014 season in which he won the Junior Worlds and qualified Norway for the Olympics at the ISAF Worlds in Santander, he has improved to the point where he is regularly at the top of big fleets and challenging the big names. Coached by Peer Moberg, since 2015, he has also trained alongside Jonas Høgh-Christensen  hoping to learn more from the Dane’s experience. Pedersen started in the Optimist aged six and found he could overcome a fear of sailing by himself by practicing, so has been practicing for this ever since. Feeling the Olympic energy as Anders Pedersen heads into Rio

Josh Junior (NZL)

Josh Junior is from Wellington and has been sailing since he was five years old. He won selection for Rio against Andrew Murdoch, to whom he lost selection to in the Laser class in 2012. Junior is one of the brightest talents in the fleet and the only sailor in Rio to have bragging rights that he has beaten Giles Scott since 2012. His win in Palma this year was a career highlight and his first major win in the class. A former New Zealand match racing champion, he goes into Rio as a firm favourite for a medal as long as he can keep consistency, which has often been his downfall in the past. Junior is coached by John Cutler, who took bronze in the Finn at Seoul 1988.Josh Junior aspires to repeat Kiwi Olympic Finn success in Rio

Allan Julie (SEY)

Allan Julie sailed four Olympics in the Laser and is a national sporting hero in his native Seychelles. He was tempted back to the Olympics by the opportunity of wining the African nation place and duly qualified in Palma this year. A product of the SailCoach programme he has been helped by his good friend Vasilij Zbogar, from their days training together in Lasers. Julie won gold in the Laser at the 2011 All-Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique. At the 2004 Olympics, as the most experienced member of the Seychelles team, Julie was the flag bearer for Seychelles at the opening ceremony. He has also been Seychelles Sportsman of the Year five times.Allan Julie setting the bar high to qualify for Rio Olympics

Vasilij Zbogar (SLO)

Vasilij Zbogar is a four time Olympian already and has the dubious honour of being the oldest Finn sailor in Rio at 40. After a tough trials for 2012, he was selected early for 2016 and like many has focussed on training in Valencia rather than travelling, having competed in only three major events in the past year. He lost much of the 2015 season after a cycling accident, but recovered to take his first world championship medal at the 2015 Finn Gold Cup. He is one of the most famous sportsmen in Slovenia and his first medal in 2004 also won him Slovenian Sportsman of the Year. He will be Slovenia's flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony in Rio. Interview (December 2015)

Max Salminen (SWE)

Max Salminen moved into the Finn class after winning the gold in the Star class at the London 2012 Olympics, along with his helm Freddy Lööf. For Rio he won a fairly tense and close trials against Björn Allansson and has improved year on year to the point where he is now regularly qualifying for medal races. He has spent more time training in Rio than most of the fleet – he says 150 days – and less time at regattas. Coached by Dayne Sharp, he is a quick and tactically astute sailor and stands a good chance at claiming a medal to add to his London gold. Smooth sailing for Max Salminen in quest to repeat Olympic success

Alican Kaynar (TUR)

Alican Kaynar has been the only internationally competitive Finn sailor in Turkey this cycle and has largely been based at the Dinghy Academy since 2012, but more recently has been training alongside Giorgio Poggi. He qualified Turkey for the Olympics at the last possible chance, in Palma this year. He has always shown far more promise than he has delivered, winning races at major events, but rarely finishing inside the top 10 at the end. However he is a skilled and intelligent sailor who is more than capable of being in the medal race come 16 August. Video

Alejandro Foglia (URU)

Alejandro Foglia is the first Uruguay Finn sailor to compete at the Olympics since 1968 and only the second athlete in the history of Uruguay to qualify for four Olympic Games. At the 2008 Olympics he was the flagbearer for the Uruguay team. He qualified for the final open spot at the Olympics during the 2015 Finn Gold Cup in Takapuna. Since he joined the Finn class in 2013 he has been supported by the Finn class development programme, FIDeS, and moved to Valencia to train at the Dinghy Academy. In spite of a series of injuries setting back his campaign he remains one of the fittest Finn sailors in the fleet. Fourth Olympics beckons for FINNTEAM participant Alejandro Foglia

Caleb Paine (USA)

Caleb Paine is described as the most hard working sailor on the circuit. He says it’s because he needs to train to make up for lack of talent. That hard work paid off earlier this year in Barcelona when he overcame double Olympian Zach Railey to earn his chance to represent the USA in Rio. That regatta of course including the now famous mark trap incident from Railey that so nearly cost Paine his Olympic dream. Paine was introduced to the Finn in 2008 and has been moving in one direction ever since. Following a brief period in 2012, when he won the World Cups in Medemblik and Miami, he became the World No. 1. Finn contender Caleb Paine makes the hard work count


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