POHANG, South Korea -- Team USA beat out Russia for gold in women's two-person dinghy sailing, Oct. 7 during the Military World Games.
U.S. Navy Lt. Trisha Kutkiewicz and Ensign Mary Hall actually finished the final race a boat-length behind the Russians and didn't realize they had won mathematically based on total points after 11 races. They came ashore disappointed until the official tally was posted an hour later showing USA had won by a single point.
"Russia was our top competitor, really close with us, so we were battling it out with them," Kutkiewicz said. "But we still had to keep an eye on all the other girls, because it was a really tight fleet. The top five were some of the best in the world."
The Brazil team took bronze with 23 points.Russia took silver with 17 points after winning four races, including the final.
USA was ahead coming into the final turn, but jibed too sharply and lost the wind. Russia edged ahead.
That let the sails out of Hall's and Kutkiewicz' confidence. They thought Russia had taken the gold. Both Russia and the USA had won four of the 11 races. But USA had finished in second-place in three of the races, compared to Russia's two. That gave USA the win by a point and a champagne cork was popped.
This was the third consecutive year Kutkiewicz sailed in Conseil International du Sports Militaire, or CISM competition. She had taken bronze in a sailing competition in Norway, but had never taken gold.
She was ecstatic. "It was a pretty awesome experience," she said, delighted to represent the USA on the top podium.
Some of the teams compete together year round, but this was the first time Kutkiewicz and Hall had sailed together. Both have full-time jobs in the Navy. Kutkiewicz serves as flag aide to an admiral who is the oceanographer and navigator of the Navy.
Hall just graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in May. But she served as the skipper.
"It was a really cool dynamic... for us to work together," Kutkiewicz said.
This was the first time in 10 years that the USA took gold in CISM sailing. The last time was in Brest, France, in 2005.
This year, the USA mixed team of Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Sean Kelly and Navy Lt. Mary Hesler placed 11th out of 20 in mixed two-person dinghy competition.
Sailing is such a big part of all of our lives. The friends we make on the U.S. team and around the world we'll still be competing with.
(On the same day, Team USA also won gold in Women's Formation Skydiving, taking place just a few miles away in Pohang, South Korea.)