Paralympian stars set for World Sailing 2.4mR European Championship
The World Sailing 2.4mR European Championship 2022 is stacking up to be a Paralympic ‘who’s who’ with a total of four Paralympians now confirmed on the 44-athlete start line in Quiberon, Brittany (France) from 15-20 May.
The Championship, now in its 11th year, is an Inclusive Open Regatta and has attracted a total of 16 athletes registered as World Sailing Para Sailors.
“We’re excited to see the line-up for this year’s 2.4mR European Championship just 50 days before we submit our application to reinstate sailing into the Paralympic Games,” said David Graham, CEO of World Sailing.
“Sailing is special, no doubt about it. No matter how wide or limited your physical and sensory ability, you can sail – and importantly you can win.”
2.4mR Champions go head-to-head
Amongst those looking to challenge for the top spot is Damien Seguin, France’s triple Paralympic medallist – with gold in Athens and Rio and silver in Beijing – and a five-time 2.4mR World Champion, who last year became the first Para Sailor to compete in the round-the-world, solo, non-stop yacht race The Vendée Globe.
Seguin is up against Germany’s Heiko Kröger, the 10-time World Champion, 2.4mR Class President, with gold and silver medals from the Sydney 2000 and London 2012 Paralympic Games and member of World Sailing Athletes’ Commission.
Sweden’s Fia Fjelddahl, who at 16 became her country’s youngest athlete at a Paralympic Games in Rio 2016, and Italy’s three-time Paralympic sailor Antonio Squizzato complete the four-strong Paralympian line-up.
“The 2.4mR has been an inclusive boat class for more than 20 years and has been in the spotlight thanks to the Paralympic Games. Now, it is widely known that the 2.4mR class offers sailors with and without disabilities the opportunity to compete at the same level – to achieve this equality, sailors with disabilities have to train a lot,” explained 55-year-old Kröger, who – born without a left forearm – started sailing aged 7 and was racing by 9 years old.
“There is no sport or discipline at the Paralympic Games where men and women with a wide range of disabilities can compete against each other without compromise. This is why we belong back in the Paralympics,” he concluded.
Squizzato added: “Emotions are high going into a European Championship like this – I’ll be competing against Paralympic, world and national champions with lots of medals already. I won’t be thinking about my disability or integration – I’ll be thinking how beautiful this sport is, and why using the natural elements of wind and water is inclusive by definition.”
The Paralympians will face a fleet of Olympic and national champions in this complex and challenging one-person keelboat class.
“We have a whole spectrum of athletes at this Championship – highly experienced Para and able-bodied sailors representing 14 countries in this open event. These are exciting times for our sport,” added Graham.
Sailing at LA28 Paralympic Games – Back the Bid
World Sailing kickstarted its reinstatement bid for the Los Angeles 2028 Paralympic Games last October in response to the growing calls from athletes around the world.
At the same time, the global governing body for sailing launched the ‘Back the Bid’ SailtoLA campaign, supported by renowned international sailors, leading figures in the sport and the world’s Para Sailors.
“Sailing gives athletes with wide impairment ranges the support they need and the unique opportunity to compete in a highly demanding sport, both mentally and physically.
“We feel this inclusivity is one of our keys to Paralympic reinstatement, and we will be focusing on this closely with the International Paralympic Committee,” concluded Graham.
World Sailing has outlined its strategic priorities to support the growth of the sport by 2023:
Increase worldwide participation to 45 nations on 6 continents
Increase youth participation (below the age of 30) to 20% of total athletes
Grow the number of female participants to 30% and, ultimately, to achieve gender parity
World Sailing 2.4mR European Championship 2022