Smooth Sailing

The Olympics in Rio didn’t provide Austrians with all that much cause for cheer. While it rains medals on the self-dubbed “sports nation” every winter, its athletes for the Summer Olympics fight an uphill battle

Whereas they proudly brought home seven medals – two of them gold – from the Games in Athens in 2004, they counted a mere three in Beijing in 2008 and none in the London plight of 2012.

Has the flame died? Not quite. One discipline proudly flies Austria’s banner as it has for decades – and with astonishing success: That sport is sailing. This year in Rio, Thomas Zajac and Tanja Frank finished the Nacra 17 mixed multihull racing class with a bronze medal.

This strength is extraordinary. But Austria, a landlocked country, has a long and honorable tradition in sailing, with three gold medals past that put her in a remarkable 13th place in the all-time Olympic Games medal table, otherwise dominated by the great maritime nations with access to the sea.

For this, we must thank the country’s 315 km2 “wet meadow,” the Neusiedlersee, and its fellow great lakes the Bodensee and the Attersee, whose chaotic conditions are ideal for the budding sailor learning to tame wind and weather. Add to that targeted, reliable support and indomitable spirit, and you get a winning mix.

So here’s to fair winds for Tokyo 2020.

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Benjamin Wolf
Benjamin studied Journalism, History and International Affairs. After stints with Cafébabel in Paris and Arte in Strasbourg, he is now working as managing editor and COO for Metropole in Vienna. Fields of expertise are politics, economics, culture, and history. Photo: Visual Hub

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