Canadian sailor Sarah Douglas holds off reigning Olympic champ for gold in France
Despite pre-race nerves, Canadian sailor Sarah Douglas "kept cool" in Saturday's medal race and held off reigning Olympic champion Anne-Marie Rindom of Denmark to win gold in ILCA 6 (small single-handed dinghy) at French Olympic Week in Hyeres, France.
The 29-year-old Douglas closed out the competition with a 10th-place finish in Saturday's medal race but was already guaranteed at least silver from a strong performance earlier in the week.
She ended with 74 points, one better than Rindom, the 2020 Summer Games champion and 2022 world gold medallist.
Douglas has qualified to be nominated for the 2023 Pan Am Games in Santiago, Chile and this year's sailing world championships in August. Both events will be quota spot qualifiers for the 2024 Paris Olympics, along with the Games' test event.
"I raced her to the back, and I tried to slow her down, which worked in my favour and was the plan," the Ashbridge's Bay Yacht Club member told Sailing Canada of Rindom. "I was a bit nervous going into the medal race. Anne Marie is an incredible sailor with all the experience in the world, so I knew she had been in this kind of situation before.
"It was new for me, but I kept with the plan, kept cool and kept pushing until the very end to walk away with the gold medal."
It represented Douglas's second major international title following the World Sailing World Cup in April 2022 as part of the Princess Sofia Trophy in Spain.
"I came to France with specific goals in mind and I'm happy that I was able to achieve them. To step on the podium is the cherry on top."
Douglas was sixth in her 2020 Olympic debut after attempting to become the first Canadian woman ever to reach the Summer Games podium.
Family's deep love of sailing
She was born in Canada and grew up in Barbados, but her family always had a Canadian connection. Her father had family in Montreal and both of her parents attended university here.
Douglas probably wouldn't have discovered sailing if her older brother didn't spend a single summer at Camp Tawingo near Huntsville, Ont., marking the start of the Douglas family's deep love of the sport.
Casey Imeneo from Australia earned bronze on Saturday in an event featuring five of the six medallists from the 2020 Olympics and last year's worlds.
In 49erFX, Ali ten Hove of Kingston, Ont., and Toronto's Mariah Millen were 13th overall in the event, which included three medalist teams from Tokyo and worlds.
The Canadian team was fifth after the first five races before falling back into 16th after nine races. They closed the event in 13th place following the 13 races that were held throughout the week.
"We sailed a strong qualifying series which we were happy with," said ten Hove and Millen. "We were sitting in fifth place heading into final gold fleet racing, but we struggled to find pace in the light wind conditions and to figure out the tricky tactical shifts.
"Overall, we are happy with the progress we made at this regatta as we continue to focus on our process goals."
Ten Hove and Millen also qualified to be nominated for the 2023 Pan Am Games.
Antonia and Georgia Lewin-LaFrance from Chester, N.S., was the other Canadian tandem in action, placing 20th and qualifying to be nominated for this year's world championships.