The final day of Olympic sailing began with sunny skies and windy conditions.
Those conditions made for a perfect day chock-full of medal races that decided eight Olympic champions in Rio de Janeiro.
What better place to host those races than Pão de Açucar on Guanabara Bay.
Women’s 470 medal race
Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark jumped up in joy and waved to the crowd in elation as they stood atop of the podium in the victory ceremony. They are now Olympic champions in the women’s 470.
Mills and Clark of Great Britain had already clinched Olympic gold heading into the medal race. They had only 28 net points and no other competitor could score low enough to pass them for the top spot.
The silver and bronze medal, however, were up for grabs as four crew were only four points apart: New Zealand (48 net points), Team USA (49), France (50) and Japan (52).
Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie of New Zealand needed to finish ahead of the U.S., France and Japan to secure a silver medal. Similarly, Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha of Team USA needed to finish ahead of New Zealand, France and Japan to secure silver as well.
In the end, the Kiwi duo edged out their competition to secure silver.
France’s Camille Lecointre and Helene Defrance needed to finish ahead of the U.S. and Japan to jump up and secure bronze.
In a heartbreak moment, Team USA, who led the medal race after the first two markers and were in silver medal contention, got penalized after fouling Japan.
The foul and other issues with the American’s spinnaker cost them silver and bronze. A sobbing Annie Haeger crossed the finish line in utter disappointment.
Men’s 470 medal race
Croatia’s Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic celebrated after crossing the finish line of the men’s 470 medal race. They dethroned the reigning Olympic champions and are now gold medalists in Rio.
Fantela and Marenic, who have been sailing together since high school, raced together in the 470 at two previous Olympics, finishing sixth in London and ninth in Beijing.
They became the first Croatians to place first in the 470 at the 2009 World Championships and won it again in 2016.
The race for silver was a wet one – at one point a member from each of Australia’s and Greece’s crew slipped and fell in the water.
In summary, Australia’s Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan, who were the gold medal favorites, took home silver. This was Ryan’s first Olympic Games; Belcher won a gold medal in this event at the 2012 Olympics with former partner, Malcom Page.
Greece’s Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis won bronze – Greece’s first-ever medal in this event.
Team USA’s Stu McNay and Dave Hughes finished second in the medal race, but were out of medal contention heading into the medal race. They remained in fourth overall.
Men’s 49er medal race
New Zealand’s Peter Burling and Blair Tuke capsized their boat purposefully and jumped into Guanabara Bay after crossing the finish line in celebration of becoming Olympic Champions in the men’s 49er at the Rio Games.
Burling and Tuke had already clinched gold heading into the medal race on Thursday. They had scored low enough in the opening series that no competitor could take the lead. Adding icing on the cake, they further extended their lead by winning the medal race.
Burling and Tuke have not lost a race in this event since the first race after the London Games, where they won silver.
In Rio, the race for silver was between Germany (67 net points), Australia (70) and Great Britain (80).
Australia’s Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen prevailed after crossing the finish line in fourth place, which was enough to win the silver medal at the Rio Games. Outterridge and Jensen won gold in the 49er at the London Games.
Germany’s Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel, who headed into the medal race in second-place overall, dropped to third after they finished in eighth place in the medal race, which resulted in a bronze medal.
Great Britain’s Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Alain Sign capsized making a turn around a marker and couldn’t regain momentum to come back. It eventually cost them the chance to medal.
Americans Joe Morris and Thomas Barrows did not advance to the medal race.
Women’s 49erFX medal race
After Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze jumped into their native Guanabara Bay in celebration of becoming Olympic champions, they saluted the Brazilian flag atop of the podium during the victory ceremony. They became Olympic champions in the closest race of the day. It was a great accompichment for the hometown heroes, and it marked their first Olympic medal at their first Olympics.
Three generations of Grael’s family have represented Brazil in Olympic sailing including her father, Torben Grael, who won five medals in six Games and now serves as Brazil’s Olympic sailing coach.
An exhilarating race was sure to unfold as Grael and Kunze were tied for first-place overall with Spain and Denmark at 46 net points.
New Zealand’s Alex Maloney and Molly Meech, who were just one point shy of the top three contenders, had a great shot at gold. They led for most of the medal race and the gold medal was in their grasp. Heading towards the fifth and final marker before they turned to the finish, Grael and Kunze, who were in third for most of the race, caught up to the Kiwis after rounding the fifth marker.
New Zealand and Brazil were now side by side and headed towards the finish line.
Suddenly, a huge gust of wind rushed the Brazilians forward.
Brazil took the lead for the first time in the final regatta of the Rio Olympics. However, New Zealand was gaining.
It only became clear towards the final 10 meters that New Zealand would not be able to catch Brazil.
Brazil crossed the finish just two seconds ahead of New Zealand and captured gold.
Spain’s Tamara Dominguez and Berta Betanzos, finished the medal race in seventh and were knocked out of medal contention by Denmark’s Jena Hansen and Katja Salskoc-Iversen, who finished in fourth place and secured bronze.
Team USA’s Paris Henken and Helena Scutt advanced to the medal race, but were out of medal contention.