Silver lining for Matt Bugg on final day

In a fighting last race comeback, Tasmanian Matt Bugg early today won the Silver Medal in the 2.4m Norlin OD class at the Rio Paralympics, brilliantly winning the final race.

Going into the race 11,  Bugg was battling to win the bronze medal following his disqualification from race 10 with a mere two point margin to the fourth placed American Dee Smith.

In fact, but for that disqualification over a port and starboard incident after finishing first in race 10, he almost certainly would have won the Gold Medal.

Today,   Bugg brilliantly outsailed the entire fleet to score this fourth win of the Paralympics. With series leader Helena Lucas (GBR) finishing 14th, he leapfrogged her to win the Silver.

An overnight protest saw Australia’s Matt Bugg disqualified from race 10 in the 2.4mR and as a result he moved from first to third overall coming into today’s final race.  With the standings, Bugg had to protect the Bronze from USA sailor, Dee Smith who was only two points behind.  He was also a long shot at moving up in either Silver or Gold, but had to have 10 places between he and the competitors from Great Britain and France.

Bugg got caught up in a start line incident with USA’s Smith, and was back in the fleet in the early stages of the race, but sailed well to move back up into first place by the third mark rounding.

He eventually crossed the finish line in first place, then the nervous wait began to see where France and Great Britain would finish.  France crossed the finish line in fourth, while Great Britain finished back in 13th place – enough to move Bugg up into the Silver medal position.

“I’ve done it pretty tough this week,” said Bugg.  “I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night (after the protest) and I really went into this race in a tough position.  I can’t be too disappointed with the result.

“I had a good experience in London and I saw my team mates up there getting a gold medal and I decided that’s what I wanted.  To come here and get a Silver is an achievement and I’m really happy with that.“

The Gold Medal in the 2.4s went to Damien Sequin (FRA) with a fourth place in the final race.  Bugg’s initial rival for bronze, Dee Smith (USA) came in sixth.

“We were proud of Matt before he left for Rio, we would be proud no matter the result,  but a Silver medal is a great reflection of how well Buggy sailed theses Paralympics and we are ecstatic!” the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania wrote on its Facebook page.

Matt Bugg’s Rio Paralympic Silver Medal is the culmination of a courageous return to sailing after a snow boarding accident in Europe left him a paraplegic.

He sailed reasonably well at the London 2012 Paralympics and has put in a tremendous effort, coached by Richard Scarr,  over the past four years to become a top-ranked 2.4 sailing,  winning regatta in Europe and then  training on the chilly waters of Hobart’s River Derwent these past few months.

Australia has been the dominant nation in Paralympic sailing,  with two Gold (Skud 18 two-person and Sonar three-person) and Bugg’s Silver in the 2.4m single-handed boat.

World Sailing/Peter Campbell

18 September 2016

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