Chris Cook brings home a sailing championship

RYAN WOLSTAT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:16 AM ET

When Chris Cook dislocated his shoulder last February and again while recovering from the injury in April, more than once, the thought crossed his mind that he would never sail competitively again.

"Being 30 years old, thinking this is probably my last four year cycle before I move on and do something else, I was pretty worried that it was going to be a career-ending injury," Cook admitted.

Instead, after five months of vigorous rehabilitation and training, the Whitby native and Rosedale resident placed third at the prestigious Finn Gold Cup (World Championship), held last weekend in Moscow.

Cook finished third behind two-time Olympic gold medallist and four-time world champion Ben Ainslie of England and Emilios Papathanasiou of Greece.

While most casual fans assume that the Olympics are the standard against which all sailing competitions are measured, according to Cook, that is a misconception.

"If you ask the athletes, the pinnacle of our sport is the World Championships," he said.

"At the Olympics it's only one person from each nation (competing), while at the worlds you have all the best sailors in the world. It's much more difficult to do well."

Cook has been sailing Olympic class since he was 21 and recently completed a degree in water resource management from the University of Toronto.

Last year he trained full-time, Thursday to Sunday in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and attended U of T full-time Monday to Wednesday. "It was a bit of a commute," he joked.

Cook was not expecting a podium finish in Moscow. He got off to a shaky start, getting disqualified in his second of nine races for an early start.

Luckily each competitor can erase their worst of the nine races and Cook's coach, Larry Lemieux, used the miscue as a chance to settle down his competitor and to explain to him that he could do well even if he got off to conservative starts during the rest of his races.

Finn Sailing, an Olympic sport since 1956, is a single-handed, solo style of sailing, designed for a larger, 205-225 pound person.

Previously, Cook finished sixth at his first world championship and second in the Canadian Olympic trials, narrowly avoiding a trip to the Athens Games in 2004.

Cook wants to use his Moscow experience as a springboard to a medal finish at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and hopes his success and the silver medal performance in the Star category by Canadians Ross Macdonald and Mike Wolfs in Athens will lead to more media attention and public support for his sport in the future.

"More and more we are seeing good things for sailing in this country," he said.


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