Dean Brenner Stands By Olympic Team
Editor's Note: The US Olympic Sailing Team did not apologize for not medaling, but it does plan to move toward a more successful 2016 with the help of our current publisher, Josh Adams, who will be leaving SAIL and taking over the helm of the Olympic team later this month. We wish him, and the entire U.S. Sailing Team, the best of luck in the next four years of training. Here's to medals in 2016!
At the Helm: I Stand By My Team
1936 was a long time ago. The Olympic Games were in Berlin, under the watchful glare of Adolf Hitler. The Games was basically a huge Nazi party rally. Jesse Owens pissed off his hosts by being outstanding. And it was also the last time the USA failed to win a single medal in the sailing events. It’s a fact, so let’s just get it out there, and acknowledge reality.
Our team wanted to come here and make some history. We just had a different kind of history in mind.
We’re going to be asked the same question over and over for the next couple of months: why and how did this happen? Some will be asking because they are proud of our team and they want to see this program succeed. Others will be asking because they love to lob criticism from the sideline, and love to comment on failure.
At this point, this is all I know: the team competed with dignity and represented all of us well. These people were great ambassadors, and they competed hard, every day. But it just didn’t happen. Some of it was bad luck, as we all know there can be in sailing. Some of it was bad timing; had Finn’s been in the lighter wind of the second week, or 470women been in the heavier air of the first week, the outcome may have been different. And no analysis would be complete without an acknowledgment that we have to look at our performance program. Are there things we can do better there? It would be arrogant to suggest anything to the contrary.
I’ll admit that I just didn’t see this one coming. We came into these Games thinking we could legitimately compete for a medal in several events, and in a few others, we felt we had some version of “a chance,” if things fell our way. Never in my wildest dreams did I think EVERTHING would fall our way, and that we would win 5 medals or more. But it was equally unexpected that we would strike out across the board, and come home with zero.
So, yes, I am shocked.
So, here is we will be doing in the short term. We are going to face the scrutiny with heads high, eyes wide open, and confidence intact. There are going to be lots of questions and we will answer them all. We will not shrink from this. We can’t, and won’t, try to spin this. But we also won’t be rubbing any gravel through our hair, begging forgiveness or apologizing for everything. We did a lot of things right. But not everything.
And then right away, I’ll be working directly with my successor, Josh Adams, on a process to gather feedback and input from a lot of sources, as Josh begins crafting our strategy for 2016.
The only thing I won’t tolerate is a bashing of our sailors. Did they all sail their best? I would argue that none of them sailed to the best of their abilities. But I know for sure that all of them gave it everything they had. They were healthy. They were rested. They were well-practiced. We spent a ton of time here. These 16 people all earned the right to be here, and they are all Olympians, for the rest of their lives. They all represented us well, and were outstanding ambassadors for the United States of America.
I’m proud of this team. I’m proud of our program. I’m proud of the progress we have made over the last four and eight years. I’m not proud of these results, but we will look closely at what happened, and we will do our best to be better next time.
I like my team. I stand by my team.
Dean Brenner, Team Leader
Photos courtesy of ISAF