Sailing stars from BrazilReported by Deccan Herald on Saturday, 12 May 2012 (on May 12, 2012)
*Brazil is known as a soccer powerhouse. But if Olympic medals are any measure, it might just as well be known as the country of sailing.
*The South American nation has enjoyed more success on the water than in any other discipline and Robert Scheidt is one of its biggest names. While not quite the household character in Brazil that former soccer ace Ronaldo is, he's not far off, at least when the Olympics come along.
"Brazil has won more Olympic medals in sailing than any other sport and although Brazilians don't know how it works 100 percent, they know it and they know the heroes," Scheidt told Reuters in an interview in his home city of Sao Paulo.
"When we win people stop us on the streets and congratulate us. We know we'll never be as popular as football, which is like a religion here, but we are doing what we love and we have a great level of support to help us make our dreams come true,'' Scheidt added.
Scheidt and his partner Bruno Prada are almost invincible in the Star class. The pair won seven of nine competitions last year and have been at the top of the world ranking almost non-stop since July 2010.
They are the favourites to win the gold at the summer Olympics in London. If they do, Scheidt would become Brazil's greatest ever Olympian, overtaking another sailor, Torben Grael, the one-time king of Star. Scheidt has two gold and two silver medals, one behind Grael's tally of two gold, a silver and two bronze.
"I think that Robert Scheidt is among the best top 10 sailors of all time," said Murillo Novaes, a yachting commentator for ESPN Brasil and author of a book on Grael.
"He is so good because first and foremost he has natural talent, sailing is second nature to him. Over and above that he is very disciplined and that Germanic focus is what makes him the phenomenon that he is,'' Novaes added.
There are good reasons Brazil is a sailing powerhouse. Brazil has 4,554 miles (7,329 km) of coastline and many of the immigrants who came here over the centuries have been from sea-faring cultures in places like Portugal, Italy, and Scandinavia.
Scheidt made his name in the solo laser class, winning the world junior title in 1991 and his first Olympic gold just five years later. He dominated laser for a decade, winning eight world titles and three Olympic medals, before moving to Star with Prada in 2005.
The two classes are totally different, with Scheidt comparing Star's larger keelboats to trucks alongside the smaller and sportier laser vessels. Scheidt and Prada quickly got the hang of them, though, and the pair took silver at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Now they believe they are in pole position to go one better.
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