ENOSHIMA, Japan — Sailor Sarah Douglas was overcome with emotion after she saw her coach Vaughn Harrison on the dock at Enoshima Yacht Harbour, and started crying as they hugged.
Douglas fell out of medal contention in the final race of the women's laser radial class on Sunday, placing sixth overall for what is an all-time best finish for a Canadian in the event at the Olympics. The Toronto native had entered the final in fourth, but dropped two places after finishing ninth in the medal race.
"Going into today I was just going for a medal. I knew I could drop to seventh but I was like 'no matter what happens, I'm going to be super proud,'" said Douglas. "It took me a moment, obviously, coming off the medal race you're very upset and I couldn't stop crying."
Just making the final was an accomplishment, as Douglas became the first Canadian to take part in the medal race of the boat class since it was introduced at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Brenda Bowskill, also from Toronto, had the best-ever Olympic performance by a Canadian in laser radial until Douglas. Bowskill finished 16th in the event at the 2016 Rio Games.
"We set out with these goals going into these Olympics and the goal was to have a shot at winning a medal, which I did succeed in but I didn't quite get the medal," said Douglas. "I still made history for Canada and I hope I inspired some youth sailors and other Canadians to go after their goals."
Denmark's Anne-Marie Rindom held on for gold in the event despite a seventh-place finish in the medal race.
Sweden's Josefin Olsson won the medal race and took silver, overtaking Marit Bouwmeester. The Dutch sailor entered the race in second place, but settled for bronze after finishing sixth on Sunday.
Douglas entered Sunday's medal race with 82 points, three behind Olsson who started Sunday in third place.
It was 28 degrees Celsius with 78 per cent humidity at the starting horn, with southerly sea breeze of up to 10 knots.
Italy's Silvia Zennaro was disqualified in the first leg after crossing the start line early.
Douglas was in fifth after the first leg of the medal race, but she faded in the second leg, dropping to eighth and then fell to ninth in the final legs.
"Unfortunately, I got to the wrong side of a shift and didn't quite have the downwind speed for one of them and fell back," said Douglas. "It's really, really challenging in those medal races. They're such short, high-intensity races. I just couldn't quite get there."
Douglas has competed at Enoshima Yacht Harbour three other times and said she enjoys the course, although she's struggled to find success on the waters surrounding the island in Sagami Bay, about 75 kilometres southwest of Tokyo.
"I love Enoshima," said Douglas, who noted that the Japanese people are always warm and welcoming to sailors. "You get a real mix of conditions, we've had that all this week."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 1, 2021.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press