David Leggat on sport

David Leggat is a Herald sport writer

David Leggat: Windsurfers or kites Answers are blowing in wind

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Windsurfers or kiteboarders? Only one will be at the Olympics. Photo / Supplied
Windsurfers or kiteboarders? Only one will be at the Olympics. Photo / Supplied

Windsurfers or kiteboarders? Only one will be at the Olympic Games in 2016.

There is no room for both under the current International Olympic Committee configuration. So ...

What is at the root of the dispute?

The International Sailing Federation this month voted 19-17 to introduce kiteboarding on to the Olympic sailing programme for Rio de Janeiro at the expense of windsurfing, which had been on the card since 1984. Cue windsurfing fury, and jubilation among the kiteboarders. The selected version is course racing as distinct from freestyle.

So the windsurfing community is filthy and the kiteboarders are jubilant?

Yes and yes. First off, neither party saw this decision coming as quickly as it did. There have been suggestions the kites could have been introduced as a demonstration sport for Rio with an eye towards perhaps being brought in for 2020.

Problem is the IOC don't do demos any more. So you're either in or you're not.

One point: there has been no animosity between the two board disciplines. The kiteboarders have no need for it as they're in the box seat; the windsurfers insist their beef is with the ISAF.

Is that the end of it for 2016?

Not exactly. When the ISAF have their annual meeting in Ireland in November, another vote is expected. The understanding is that at that point windsurfing, as the sport on the outer now, must obtain 75 per cent of the ISAF council vote to get their place back. That's not going to be easy, although there have been noises of several votes possibly changing direction in windsurfing's favour.

What are the ISAF saying about the furore?

Precisely nothing. The roaring silence is presumably one of two things: a tacit acknowledgement that, oops, we got that wrong; or the old tactic of keeping schtum, letting the dust settle before ploughing on. The problem with that is the windsurfers have made it abundantly clear they're not about to lose their voice before November.

From the windsurfing perspective, what went wrong?

Sources close to the action believe they had got a bit comfortable with their Olympic status, and didn't press their case vigorously enough. Yet they must have known the ISAF had done evaluations of the two, suggesting a change was not completely out of the question. Kiteboarding, by contrast, lobbied hard and it paid off. For now. The ISAF is facing criticism all round for speeding their decision through this month, catching all parties off guard.

But isn't evolution part of sport?

Certainly there are plenty of yachting classes which are history in Olympic terms. Kiteboarders maintain theirs is the board sport for the future. Windsurfers, many of whom also sail the kites, talk of the greater danger attached to kiteboarding making it wrong for the Games. Kiters scotch that. In turn, the RS:X class is viewed in some quarters as being overdue for an upgrade.

Who will ultimately win out?

The kites are in possession, so to speak. The windsurfers have a scrap on their hands. But it might yet turn out too close to call.

- NZ Herald

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