Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch.
Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch. Jeff Crow

Aussies sail off into the sunset with golden glow

SAILING: The sport will not be a part of the Paralympics in Tokyo in four years time, but Australia has dominated in the waters off Rio.

Liesl Tesch and Dan Fitzgibbon defended their two-person SKUD18 crown from London, while the three-man Sonar crew of Colin Harrison, Russell Boaden and Jonathan Harris made it a sailing double.

Matthew Bugg had been hoping to make it a golden treble in all three of the sailing classes in Rio but following a race-10 disqualification, he had to settle for silver after winning the final race in the one-person keelboat class.

Fitzgibbon said he was happy to sail off into the sunset with a second gold.

"To race on that racecourse, widely known as the most difficult one in the world, to have a scorecard that we got, and to be retiring at the end of it, that's a fairytale for us,” he said.

"I can just hang my boots up and be very proud.”

For Tesch, it was a golden ending to a horror start to her Rio campaign. She was mugged at gunpoint and pushed off her bicycle during a training camp there in June.

The veteran, who also competed at the Beijing Paralympics in wheelchair basketball, said she was disappointed not to get the chance of a third gold in Tokyo in four years time, with the sport controversially taken off the program.

"It's absolutely devastating that we can't even have another chance,” she said.

"It's devastating for us, but it's devastating for all the people in other countries who were aspiring to knock us out of that pole position and get themselves on the podium in Tokyo in 2020.

"But we will be working as hard as we can to increase the opportunities for sailors around the world with disabilities to be involved in the sport and hopefully return in 2024.

"There's men and women sailing together and the SKUD, our boat, has brought people with really high-level disabilities like Dan competing with people like myself with really minimal disability.

"There's no other sport in the Paralympics that allows that to happen. So it really is important that it gets back in for 2024.”