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Tom Ashley wins Gold at Quingdao!!!!!

Television reports say Tom Ashley has just won the medal race to sail away with gold in a race that was the decider. Although placed 3rd going into the race the double points system meant that whoever won the race also won the gold medal. --------------------------------------------- Today in Qingdao, China, Tom Ashley has won a gold medal – the first Olympic sailing gold for New Zealand since 1992 when Barbara Kendall won windsurfing gold 16 years ago in Barcelona. Ashley secured the medal this afternoon after a grueling medal race where he fought it out with three rival windsurfers for a podium spot and an Olympic medal. With Julien Bontemps of France, Nick Dempsey of Great Britain and Tom Ashley all within one point of each other at the top of the standings, and Shahar Zubari of Israel a little further back but still in with a shot, today’s medal race was a grand finale of epic proportions. This has been Ashley’s second Olympic Games appearance after he competed in the Mistral class in Athens 2004 at just 20 years of age. Back then he finished 10th, but the now 24 year old from Auckland’s North Shore has topped that today with the gold medal. Ashley’s ability to produce consistent results when racing at either end of the wind range has been his strength at this event where the light air and heavy air specialists fell in the standings when conditions didn’t suit them. The fleet started competition ten days ago and have raced in the extreme light winds typical of Qingdao, as well as the blustery and choppy 15-20 knot conditions experienced last Sunday. It was on Saturday that the kiwi moved up into the lead spot in the Men’s RS:X class in which 35 windsurfers, all representing a different nation, compete. Since then Ashley has held the lead, until after yesterday’s race ten when the points at the top of the board closed up and he found himself in a tussle with three other medal contenders going into today’s race.

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