Smith enjoying son’s sailing exploits
Malcolm Smith, one of Bermuda’s most decorated Pan American Games athletes, could not be more proud to watch his sailing son, Benn, following in his footsteps.
During a career spanning seven Pan American Games, Malcolm won silver medals in the Sunfish class in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1999 and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 2003.
A three-times Sunfish world champion, he also represented the island at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, finishing 40th in the Lasers, the class his son will sail in Lima.
“I’ve been pushing Benn pretty hard from a very young age,” said Malcolm, whose final appearance at the Pan Am Games came in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2011.
“I love the sport and know about the positives that come from it; the friends you make and being able to go to all of the different games. This is just the beginning for him.
“When he was younger, I gave him lots of advice, but he’s now at the stage where he doesn’t need as much.”
Benn will be competing at Yacht Club Peruano in Paracas, where he missed out on securing automatic qualification for Lima by one spot, placing 21st at the Laser South American Championships in February.
He was, however, granted a universality spot after an application was submitted on his behalf by the Bermuda Olympic Association.
Although it will be Benn’s first experience of a major multi-sport event, Malcolm is confident his son will rise to the challenge while learning plenty against the region’s best.
“It’s going to be tough for him but he’s already been [to Paracas] to compete and train,” added Malcolm, who has not travelled to Lima.
“He’s dedicated and goes to one of the top [sailing] colleges in the United States, Charleston [in South Carolina]. He has been on the sailing team since he was a freshman and that’s really helped him a lot.
“Every time he goes to a regatta, we hire a coach for him. You learn something new every time you have a different coach; he’s been rotating through quite a few during recent years.
“The Pan Ams give you a good feel of what it’s like at the Olympics. Give Benn a couple of more years and I hope he’ll be right up there with some of these top guys.”
Malcolm cut his teeth at the Pan Am Games in the Lasers in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1987 before racing at Havana, Cuba, in 1991 and in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in 1995.
However, it was not until the Sunfish, the class in which he grew up sailing in Bermuda, was added to Games in 1999 that Malcolm began to seriously challenge for the coveted podium places.
“We had a really large Sunfish fleet in Bermuda back then,” he said. “It was really good for me when it was taken into the Pan Ams in ‘99. It gave me an opportunity to compete in a class in which I stood my best chance of medalling.”
Also representing Bermuda in Paracas, a 3½-hour drive from Lima, will be siblings Cecilia and Michael Wollmann in the Nacra 17.
“Bermuda needs to keep competing at this level of competition,” Malcolm added. “It does seem to be getting harder for sailors to qualify.
“I’m glad to see two teams going and I can remember when we had three or four teams at Pan Am.
“I’d like to see more. but give it time. We have a lot of good sailors on the horizon such as Sebastian Kempe and Christian Ebbin, who finished eighth and eleventh at the Optimist World Championship in Antigua last month.”
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