Sailing

Sarah Douglas claims best-ever finish for Canadian woman in individual Olympic sailing event

Canadian sailor Sarah Douglas finished sixth in her Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games. The laser radial racer entered Sunday's final fourth in the points standings, but finished ninth to drop her out of medal contention.

27-year-old places 6th in laser radial event in Tokyo

Canada's Sarah Douglas is shown above during qualifying for the laser radial final at the Tokyo Olympics. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Canadian sailor Sarah Douglas finished sixth in her Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The laser radial racer entered Sunday's final fourth in the points standings, but finished ninth to drop her out of medal contention.

The 27-year-old from Toronto was looking to become the first Canadian woman ever to win an Olympic sailing medal.

She'll settle for claiming the best women's individual performance in the sport in the country's history.

"I went in with an opportunity to win a medal. Unfortunately I couldn't do that but still with the performance I've had this past week and with what I've accomplished so far, I'm really proud. And to make history for Canada, it really has a special place in my heart," Douglas said after the race.

Despite entering the final with a pair of top-five finishes in the last two qualifying races, Douglas fell behind early on the Enoshima Course. She was fifth at the first turn, but quickly fell off the pace by the second turn.

Douglas wound up last of the boats that finished the race, 37 seconds behind Sweden's Josefin Olsson who won the race to secure silver.

Denmark's Anne-Marie Rindom won gold despite her sixth-place finish, while defending Olympic champion Marit Bouwmeester of the Netherlands grabbed bronze.

"It just gives me a lot of fire for the next Olympics," Douglas said.

The five years of waiting in between Rio and Tokyo weren't always easy for Douglas, who battled an injury that kept her off the water for three months just before the pandemic hit.

Fighting through tears, she credited her team at home for her success.

"The support I've had is incredible. I'm going to get emotional — I don't like crying. I'm just really thankful for the support that I've had. It's really really special," she said.

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Douglas came into Tokyo hoping to elevate the sport of sailing in Canada. She also competed at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games.

"I'm fine with the Olympic pressure. You're either an Olympian or a medallist at the end of the day. Unfortunately, in the past Canadian sailors have been happy to be there. But I want to perform. I want to win a medal," she told CBC Sports before the Games.

Canada last won an Olympic sailing medal in 2004, when Mike Wolfs and Ross MacDonald took silver in the star event.

The laser radial consisted of 10 qualifying races plus the final, where ranking points were doubled. In each race, competitors are assigned random boats to complete a course that included two upwind legs, two downwind legs and a final sprint.

Douglas was the first Canadian to take part in the medal race of the boat class since it was introduced at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"We set out with these goals going into these Olympics and the goal was to have a shot at winning a medal, which I did succeed in but I didn't quite get the medal," said Douglas. "I still made history for Canada and I hope I inspired some youth sailors and other Canadians to go after their goals."

Brenda Bowskill, also from Toronto, had the best-ever Olympic performance by a Canadian in laser radial until Douglas.

Bowskill finished 16th in the event at the 2016 Rio Games.

It was 28 degrees Celsius with 78 per cent humidity at the starting horn, with southerly sea breeze of up to 10 knots.

Italy's Silvia Zennaro was disqualified in the first leg after crossing the start line early.

With files from CBC Sports' Jamie Strashin and The Canadian Press

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