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Making Waves

Making WavesTufts freshman sailor Zander Kirkland hopes to start his journey to the Olympics with a strong performance at this week's Laser World Championships.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.09.02] When the world's top sailors gather on Cape Cod for the sport's World Championships, 19-year-old Zander Kirkland will be carefully sizing up the competition. For the Tufts freshman sailor, competing in the international event marks an important step in his bid to represent Bermuda at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece.

"Zander, like other young Bermudians who want to compete against the best, realizes that to do well you have to compete abroad - you have to get out of [Bermuda]," Kirkland's father Malcolm told Bermuda's daily newspaper, The Royal Gazette, last week. "His goal is to qualify for the next two Olympics."

A star sailor in high school, Kirkland has been steadily establishing himself among the sport's international ranks.

In May, he made the sailing world rankings for the first time - entering at 488 out of 828 sailors. To make the Olympics, Kirkland says he'll need to rank in the top 90.

"I have two years to qualify," the Tufts freshman told the Gazette - Bermuda's daily newspaper - last spring. "My plan is to start hammering that ranking down."

A big part of his plan was enrolling at Tufts, where he will sail six days a week during the Fall and Spring months.

"Tufts is a national contender [in sailing] so I am counting on that fact to develop my tactical skills," he told the newspaper. "Meanwhile, I plan to do as many long course, open water events as possible for speed and technique."

This week's World Championships will give him a taste of the road ahead.

"The fleet ... currently stands at 134 entries from 44 nations and 5 continents," reported the International Sailing Federation [ISAF]. "All the top 30 ISAF World Ranked sailors are entered except number 21 Anders Nyholm, so the competition for the medals will be fierce from the onset."

But Kirkland has spent his summer preparing for what will inevitably be a highly competitive battle for Olympic qualifications.

In the UK Laser Nationals, the Tufts freshman finished twelfth. And in a highly competitive regatta in Canada this summer, Kirkland beat out more than 100 top sailors to secure a 19th place finish.

The competition will be fierce, but Kirkland plans to learn as much as he can from each regatta.

"I have a big growth year ahead of me," he told the Gazette.

Photos courtesy ISAF and CORK.org

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