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Sailing World Cup Qingdao kicks off this week and is the first international Olympic class event since Rio 2016, marking the start of the road to Tokyo 2020.
Sailing World Cup Qingdao is the fifth regatta of the 2016 series and welcomes 142 sailors from 21 nations competing across seven Olympic classes to the home of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Sailing Competition.
Among the sailors in attendance are Olympic medallists and rising stars of the sport making the journey from Europe, joining others from Asia and Oceania, to take part in what has always been an event showcasing the Chinese culture and growing popularity of sailing in country.
Qingdao welcomes Rio 2016 Laser silver medallist, Tonci Stipanovic, back to the Olympic scene in his first competitive outing since becoming the first Croatian to win an Olympic sailing medal.
In a hard fought battle with Australia's Tom Burton, Stipanovic, claimed silver in a sailing competition that asked questions in every condition and situation on the waters of Guanabara Bay. Stipanovic will be buoyed for another medal in Qingdao.
Another Olympic medallist in the Laser fleet is Cyprus' Pavlos Kontides. The Cypriot returned home from London 2012 with a silver medal, his country's first ever Olympic, to national fame and has won the Cypriot Sportperson of the Year award on more than one occasion. At Rio 2016 Kontides carried his nations flag at the Opening Ceremony before finishing seventh and he will be stiff competition for his training partner, Stipanovic in Qingdao.
One of the rising stars in the Laser fleet is Ireland's Finn Lynch. Lynch became the youngest ever Irish sailing helmsman to qualify for the Olympic Games and has his sights now set firmly on Tokyo 2020. A win on the first step of that road in Qingdao will be a massive boost for the young Irishman.
Another sailor aiming for Tokyo 2020 is Hungary's Maria Erdi. Erdi participated in the World Sailing Emerging Nations Program and had her sights set on an appearance in an Olympic Games earmarking Tokyo in four years' time. With a strong performance in Palma da Mallorca at the 2016 TROFEO Princesa Sofia, Erdi realized her Olympic dream in earnest by gaining qualification to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. She went on to become the highest placed Hungarian Laser Radial sailor in history.
With the 2016 Sailing World Cup Final fast approaching in Melbourne, Australia this coming December, Sailing World Cup Qingdao offers a great opportunity for world class fleet racing and preparation for the finale. With medals, maximum world ranking points and a Sailing World Cup title on the line, the competition is on in Qingdao.
Racing commences on Wednesday 21 September and finishes Sunday 25 September when Sailing World Cup Qingdao champions will be crowned.
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