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Brits rule waves again

ATHENS, Greece -- Britannia rules the waves again -- at least in Olympic sailing.

And the Americans are lagging behind.

Britain led the medals count at the Athens regatta with five,
including two golds. The Americans won just two, a gold and a
silver

The reasons are pretty simple -- money and experience. The
British team receives funding from the national lottery. American
sailors are generally on their own.

"We have a lot of sailors who work very hard, but obviously we
don't have the same amount of financial resources available to our
sailors, or to us to help our sailors, as other nations are able to
have,'' said Fred Hagedorn, a U.S. Sailing Association official.
"That of course impacts the amount of time the sailors are able to
spend sailing as opposed to having to do fund-raising or have a
regular job.''

Every member of the British team was either a past medalist, a
current or previous world champion or at least a top-10 finisher at
the worlds.

Not surprisingly, the American crews who won medals in Greece
had a good deal of Olympic experience.

Paul Foerster of Rockwall, Texas, and Kevin Burnham of Miami
Beach won the 470 gold medal with a class match-race victory over a
British crew. It was Foerster's fourth Olympics and Burnham's
third. Both had previously won silver medals.

John Lovell of New Orleans and Charlie Ogletree of Houston won
the silver in the Tornado class. It was their third Olympics
together, and first medal.

Having Olympic experience is "incredibly important,'' Lovell
said. "Just going through security and all those different things,
if you don't have experience at that, it can really throw you off
your game. It doesn't take much to throw someone off their game at
this level.''

Strangely, two of the best-funded U.S. crews didn't do well.

America's Cup star Paul Cayard of Kentfield, Calif., who spent
more than $100,000 of his own money on his campaign in the Star
class, and crew Phil Trinter of Lorain, Ohio, finished fifth.

The Yngling crew led by skipper Carol Cronin of Jamestown, R.I.,
secured a $244,000, two-year sponsorship from Atkins, one of the
companies behind the low-carb diet craze. But after beating several
higher-ranked crews in the U.S. trials, they finished 10th at the
Olympics.

But, Cayard, Trinter and Cronin and her crew, Liz Filter of
Stevenville, Md., and Nancy Haberland of Annapolis, Md., were all
in their first Olympics.

Cayard has been in the America's Cup five times, and there's no
circus quite like that. Still, his one-time cup nemesis, Torben
Grael of Brazil, won the Star gold here, his record fifth Olympic
sailing medal.

"I think that what we're seeing change is that the amount of
time it takes to have a successful Olympic campaign has gone from
being a typical four-year process to being something that's closer
to eight to 10 years,'' Hagedorn said. "Unless it's a new event,
odds are it's not going to have people who haven't been campaigning
for a while.''

This was likely the last Olympics for the 40-year-old Foerster.

"That's up to my wife,'' he said. "I'm pretty sure it's
negatory this time.''

Burnham, the oldest member of the U.S. sailing team, said he'll
likely have an Olympic campaign in the Tornado class with Morgan
Reeser for 2008. They won the 470 silver medal together in 1992.

"I don't feel 47,'' Burnham said. "I'm young. I don't really
want to stop. I wish Paul wanted to go again. But he's got a
newborn baby. I've got to give him a year or two'' to decide.

Also in this regatta, Israeli windsurfer Gal Fridman won his
country's first Olympic gold medal ever.