Smith sets sights on medal race
Benn Smith admits he will be disappointed if he does not achieve a top-ten finish in the Laser class at the Pan American Games.
The 20-year-old views the multi-sport event as an opportunity to make a breakthrough as one of the top Laser sailors in the region and believes the medal round is a realistic goal.
Among those he will face is Olympian Stefano Peschiera, his former team-mate at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, who is expected to be a podium contender at his home venue of the Yacht Club Peruana in Paracas.
ďIíll be unhappy if I donít make the medal race,Ē said Smith, whose event starts tomorrow. ďIf everything works out, I think I can achieve that.
ďI know a lot of the guys who are competing. A year ago I probably wasnít anywhere near them but now Iím definitely right on them.
ďItís going to be interesting, especially if the wind is lighter than expected. I tend to be strong in 10 to 15 knots just because Iím a little bit smaller than the other guys.Ē
Smith warmed up for the Pan American Games with the best performance of his career, winning a bronze medal in the Lasers at the North American Championships in Long Beach, New Jersey, this month.
Encouragingly, the conditions Smith experienced in New Jersey are expected to be similar to those in Paracas, where he missed out on securing automatic qualification for Lima by one spot in February, placing 21st at the Laser South American Championships.
ďGoing into the last day [of the North American Championships] I was winning but unfortunately I didnít get it in the end,Ē said Smith, who was granted a universality spot after an application was submitted on his behalf by the Bermuda Olympic Association.
ďIt was motivating and definitely one of my best results. I was able to prove Iím fast in that wind range and thatís really encouraging. I know Iím up to speed in the 10 to 15-knot range.
ďParacas is usually a windy venue, although in the past couple of weeks it hasnít been as windy as expected. Knowing the venue really helps. Itís very useful to know the tendencies of the wind on the water.Ē
Although Smith had a disappointing Laser World Championship in Miho Bay, Sakaiminato, Japan, last month, finishing 128th in a fleet of 156, he hopes to return to the Land of the Rising Sun for the Olympic Games in Toyko next summer.
ďIt didnít go as well as I would have liked at the worlds,Ē Smith said. ďIt was good to compete against the top guys, though, and Iíve always had an eye on peaking at Pan Am.
ďIím looking to go to the Olympics next year, although it will very hard to qualify in Lima. Iíll need a top-six finish.Ē
Smith tasted his first multi-sport event at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Barranquilla, Colombia, last summer, where he was coached by his father, Malcolm, who won two silver medals at the Pan Am Games in the Sunfish class.
ďI finished eight overall, but Iíve definitely gained a lot of experience since then,Ē said Smith, who will be coached by Ian Clingan, of Britain, in Lima.
ďIíve competed against a lot of those guys since and Iíve definitely shown that Iím better than them now. Hopefully I can beat a lot of them at Pan Am. The learning curve is steep and I just want to see where I can go with it.Ē
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