Winning Bronze and Gold at the Paralympics

Qingdao, ChinaAs released by US Sailing over the weekend: 2.4 mR sailor John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis.) added a Bronze Medal to the U.S. Paralympic Team’s medal count today, joining Gold Medalists Nick Scandone (Newport Beach, Calif.) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass.) on the podium at the 2008 Paralympic Regatta. Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), Tim Angle
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Qingdao, China

As released by US Sailing over the weekend:

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2.4 mR sailor John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis.) added a Bronze Medal to the U.S. Paralympic Team’s medal count today, joining Gold Medalists Nick Scandone (Newport Beach, Calif.) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass.) on the podium at the 2008 Paralympic Regatta. Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J.), Tim Angle (Marblehead, Mass.) and Bill Donohue (Brick, N.J.) finished eighth in the competitive Sonar class.

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Ruf scored two fourth place finishes today, securing a coveted bronze medal in the tight 2.4 mR fleet. Going into the final day of racing today, the top seven players of the fleet were all within single-digit points of each other. Surrounded by previous Paralympic medalists and world champions, first-time Paralympian Ruf sailed two solid races today and proved his talent by claiming his place on the podium. (France’s Damien Seguin was the defending gold medalist, Germany’s Heiker Kroger won a gold medal in 2000, and The Netherlands’ Thierry Schmitter won bronze in 2004.)

“He’s over the moon,” said Head Coach Betsy Alison (Newport, R.I.). “He came into this as an underdog. For those of us who know Johnny, his work ethic and how hard he has been working to improve his speed, we are so proud.”

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Ruf spent the last year training with Canada’s Paul Tingley, who won the gold medal, and his hard work paid off. Alison also credits his improvements to his coach, Marko Dahlberg (Ylojarvi, Finland), who, himself, is a 2.4 mR world champion. A year ago, Ruf finished tenth overall at the 2008 IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championship in Rochester, N.Y. “Since then, he has jumped to the forefront and onto the leader board,” said Alison. “It’s a fantastic achievement.”

Champions Scandone and McKinnon-Tucker clinched the gold medal in the SKUD-18 class yesterday with two races left in the series. While their substantial lead secured their medal yesterday, they decided to sail one race today to show their support for the rest of the fleet. They enjoyed the second race from the sidelines. “They showed great camaraderie and respect for their fellow competitors by sailing hard and sailing well,” said Alison.

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Not only were they both first time Paralympians and first-time Paralympian gold medalists, McKinnon-Tucker entered the history books as the first female gold medalist in the history of the Paralympic Sailing Regatta. Their win was also the first time the U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team has won a gold medal. During tonight’s Medal and Closing Ceremonies in Qingdao, Scandone and McKinnon received a thunderous round of applause of appreciation from their fellow international competitors.

The Sonar team of Doerr, Angle and Donohue ended the regatta with a strong final race, in which they finished second behind Great Britain and way ahead of the rest of the fleet. After a tough first race, Alison advised the team to win the start of the next race, have fun and sail their hearts out -- and that they did. The breeze built over the course of the day, helping their boat speed. “They have heart and they have determination,” said Alison. “They came here to sail, and they gave it their all.”

“I’m proud of their work and effort preparing for this event over last couple years,” said Alison. “They’re all positive and smiling tonight, so I’m really happy for them.”

Throngs of spectators, sailors and support teams gathered for tonight’s medal ceremony, basked by idyllic pre-sunset light. “There’s so much energy that surrounds a prize giving, especially of this magnitude,” said Alison. “It was so exciting to see the sailors parade in behind the podiums.”

During the 2.4 mR medal presentation, Ruf grinned brightly while watching the American flag being raised. “His smile could have lit up the Empire State Building,” said Alison. When the national anthem played for teary-eyed Scandone and McKinnon-Tucker, the emotion felt by the entire U.S. Paralympic Team, who are all first time Paralympians, was palpable, said Alison.

“It was incredible to be able to experience it with them, especially because it’s been a long and hard road with the athletes,” said Alison. “It was a collective team effort, from families to coaches to support staff. Everyone who was there was part of that medal and victory today.”

The team will travel to Beijing to represent Sailing and Team USA at the Closing Ceremony on Wednesday, September 17.

Final Standings for U.S. Paralympic Sailors (For full results please visit ISAF’s web site: www.sailing.org/24859.php)

SKUD-18: 11 boats

1. Nick Scandone (Newport Beach, Calif., USA) and Maureen McKinnon-Tucker (Marblehead, Mass., USA), 2, 1, 1, 1, (3), 2, 1, 1, 2, (12 DNS); 11

2. Daniel Fitzgibbon and Rachael Cox, AUSTRALIA, (4), 2, 2, 2, 2, 4, (9), 3, 1, 2; 18

3. John Scott McRoberts and Stacie Louttit, CANADA, 3, 3, 3, 3, 1, 3, 2, (8), (4), 3; 21

Sonar: 14 boats

1. Jens Kroker, Robert Prem, Siegmund Mainka, GERMANY, 5, 6, 3, 1, 4, (11), 5, 2, (9), 4, 5; 35

2. Bruno Jourdren, Herve Larhant and Nicolas Vimont-Vicary, FRANCE, 4, 1, 1, 2, (7), 1,(10), 5, 8, 7, (15 DNF); 36

3. Colin Harrison, Russell Boaden and Graeme Martin, AUSTRALIA, 8, 4, 2, 3, 3, 3, 1, (10), (15 OCS), 5, 7; 36

8. Rick Doerr (Clifton, N.J., USA), Tim Angle (Marblehead, Mass., USA) and Bill Donohue (Brick, N.J., USA), 1, 9, 10, 6, (11), 10, 2, 3, 4, (11), 2; 47

2.4 mR: 16 boats

1. Paul Tingley, CANADA, 1, 1, 5, 2, (9), (9), 2, 4, 5, 1; 21

2. Damien Seguin, FRANCE, 4, 4, 3, 4, 5, (17 OCS), (11), 1, 1, 2; 25

3. John Ruf (Pewaukee, Wis., USA), 2, 6, 1, (9), 1, 7, (10), 3; 29

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