CLIFTON, N.J. -- Ricky Doerr of Clifton and his teammates saved their best for last at the Paralympic Games in Brazil. The strategy paid off with a silver medal in the Sonar class.
Helmsman Doerr teamed with Brad Kendell and Hugh Freund to win the final race of the seriesin Rio de Janeiro. Australia won the gold, and Canada captured the bronze.
“Rick, Brad, and Hugh sailed a great series and earned their silver medal by racing smart and fast in the final race, on a difficult course and under pressure,” said Josh Adams, Managing Director of U.S. Olympic Sailing, who served as Team Leader for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. “They’ve worked incredibly hard as a team over the years and deserve this result.”
The U.S. started slowly, and stood in seventh place after the second day of racing. They moved up to second with a strong third day. On the first race in the fourth day, the team stayed in medal contention after a nearly disastrous race. The U.S. stood 13th out of 14 boats, but managed to move up to seventh. The team finished second in the second race of the day, and stayed in second after the fifth day of racing. Six teams were in medal contention for the final two medals behind Australia, and Doerr guided the U.S. team to victory.
“There so many boats involved in the race for medals, there was no sense in going nuts with us trying to match race another boat,’’ Doerr said. “We started the race like any other race and left it in fate’s hands. We had our race plan, executed it and found out that it was a very good plan and stuck with it.”
Doerr said before the Paralympics the key would be to stay steady throughout the competition. That’s precisely what the U.S. team did. In the nearly calamitous race in which the U.S. found itself nearly dead last, the team stuck with its game plan.
“You just have to be patient and pick them off one at a time,'' Doerr said. "It’s a baseball analogy, but we were playing small ball. If you go for the home run, you might swing and miss. We were playing for average.”
Doerr, 56, sustained an injury in a 1992 automobile accident that left him wheelchair-bound. He also qualified for the Paralympics in 2008, when the U.S. finished eighth. He did not qualify for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
“It’s validation for all the work we’ve put in for the last eight years,’’ Doerr said. “All that hard work vindicates what we thought about ourselves. You push yourself as hard as you can each and every day. It make you proud that people invested in you. When you get to put that flag up at the medal ceremony, it feels so good to be an American.”
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