Windsurfer Clinches Hong Kong’s First Medal Ever
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) _ Hong Kong has its first medal in its last Olympics _ and it’s gold.
Lee Lai-shan clinched the women’s Mistral class on Sunday, winning the only race of the day to build an insurmountable lead over defending Olympic champion Barbara Kendall of New Zealand.
The final race will be Monday. Lee will finish with no more than 16 points, and the best Kendall can do is 24. The lowest number of points wins.
Mateusz Kusznierewicz of Poland also clinched the gold medal with one race remaining in the Finn class, stretching his lead over Belgium’s Sebastien Godefroid to 17 points.
``It is the greatest feeling I could ever had imagined,″ Kusznierewicz said. ``I was very nervous when I went out, but I think the (weather) delay of two hours gave me a chance to relax.″
The silver and bronze medals will be decided Monday.
The 25-year-old Lee threw her hands in the air and flashed a big smile upon crossing the finish line. It was her first victory in the eight races so far, but her consistency _ four seconds, a third and a fourth _ added up to gold.
Her worst finish was seventh, but it was discarded. She also gets to discard a second race following Monday’s ninth and final race.
Lee, who is 5-foot-6 and 114 pounds, celebrated by shaking a bottle of champagne, ripping it open and momentarily letting it spew before happily pouring it into her mouth.
This is the last time Hong Kong will compete in the Olympics under its own name. It will be part of China in the 2000 Games in Sydney.
The first seven days of Olympic yachting have seen 38 races postponed either for too little wind or by severe thunderstorms, including nine races Sunday. The winds generally were 5-7 knots, but they were tricky.
The U.S. Soling team of Jeff Madrigali, Jim Barton and Kent Massey finished ninth and dropped to third, one point out of second place and two off the top spot held by Germany’s Jochen Schuemann, Thomas Flach and Bernd Jaekel.
``We had a mediocre day,″ Barton said.
Britain’s Andrew Beadsworth, Barry Parkin and Adrian Stead discarded their premature start in Sunday’s race.
Spain’s Fernando Leon and Jose Luis Ballester used a third-place finish to move to the top of the Tornado class with an eight-point lead over Australia’s Mitch Booth and Andrew Landenberger. The U.S. team of John Lovell of New Orleans and Charlie Ogletree of Kemah, Texas, dropped to fifth with a 12th-place finish, one point out of third.
In the double-handed dingy 470 competition, Americans Kris Stookey and Louise Van Voorhis fell from a share of the lead to third place by finishing 15th. Spain’s Theresa Zabell and Begona Via Dufresne, the gold medalist in Barcelona, finished third. The U.S. pair was nine points out of the lead.
``I’m glad there’s a lay (off) day tomorrow,″ Stookey said. ``We’ll sleep in late, rent some movies and forget about anything attached to the Olympics.″
In the men’s 470, American’s Morgan Reeser and Kevin Burnham finished 16th. Ukraine’s Yevhen Braslavets and Ihor Matviyenko won the race and stretched their lead to 21 points.
Problems in the Star class continued for the 1992 Olympic champions, Americans Mark Reynolds and Hal Haenel, as they finished 18th. The lead belongs to Brazil’s Torben Grael and Marcelo Ferreira.
A thunderstorm kept the men windsurfers from racing after the women finished, putting on hold the gold medal bid of Greece’s Nikolaos Kaklamanakis.
The world champion windsurfer holds a five-point advantage over Carlos Espinola of Argentina.