Wilmette, Sports

Penalty, judge’s ruling denies Wilmette’s Maggie Shea a shot at an Olympic medal

Wilmette’s Maggie Shea and her teammate Stephanie Roble could not bring home the gold in Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo, but it wasn’t as simple as winning and losing.

The team was hit with an infraction and then a disqualification in qualifying races in sailing’s 49er FX skiff class, all but spiking their chances for a medal.

“While we are somewhat disappointed to walk away from the Olympics in 11th place, I am so proud of how we prepared and raced; we left it all out there on the water,” Shea said in an emailed statement to The Record. “I am proud of how we grew as athletes and people: we ended this campaign mentally tougher, physically stronger, and far more mature than we started. And for those reasons, I have no regrets.”

The qualifying round consisted of 12 races over a four-day period. The top 10 teams advanced to the medal round.

In their Olympic debut, Shea and Roble were in great shape after four heats, taking third, second, second and third, respectively, according to the Olympics’ website

The two sailed “fast” and “low” consistently during these initial races, according to NBC commentary from veteran sailor Gary Jobson.

Shea and Roble, however, lost their grip on the top spots by Race 5, when they placed fifth out of 21 boats with 22 points.

By the final day, Saturday, July 31, and last three races, the pair was in sixth place overall and 15 points out of third.

The weather conditions were “patchy” with 5-9 knots of wind and the water had “significant current” in Sagami Bay, Tokyo, according to analysis by U.S. Sailing.

Despite the elements, Roble and Shea had a strong start in Race 10 but finished in 14th place after receiving a career-first yellow flag penalty from the umpires for a Rule 42 breach.

According to World Sailing, “A boat shall compete by using only the wind and water to increase, maintain or decrease her speed. Her crew may adjust the trim of sails and hull, and perform other acts of seamanship, but shall not otherwise move their bodies to propel the boat.”

Then in Race 11, Shea and Roble again started strong in seventh place, but they touched the first mark — a inflated checkpoint in the water — as they were rounding it.

Shea told U.S. Sailing, “After hitting it, we were working to get around the mark as the whole fleet was right there [behind us]. We didn’t want to get tangled up on the mark and cause a pileup. We wanted to get out of the way. We got around the mark, and immediately started spinning [a penalty-clearing 360 degree turn]. In the process of spinning, the umpires flagged us again for what we thought was hitting the mark. We were already spinning for hitting the mark, and kept sailing once we finished, thinking we were clear.”

Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Roble and Shea crossed the finish line in eighth place only to learn they incurred a second yellow flag penalty for Rule 42 and for “failing to retire from the race.” On top of the penalty, the umpires gave their race score a Do-Not-Exclude, which meant the duo was not permitted to drop that score at the end of the race series. Sailors are allowed to drop their lowest score in the series under usual circumstances.

Shea and Roble took fifth place in the 12th and final race of the series, finishing with a score that would have qualified the team for the medal round if not for the Do-Not-Exclude. They were instead left in 11th place overall, only three points off the qualifying score.

In the medal series, the Netherlands took home the gold medal, Brazil the silver and Germany the bronze.

“I’ve learned that in sports, you need to take the good with the bad, and compete because you love the process and the journey – not the end result,” Shea wrote. “I’m so grateful to my family, the US Sailing Team, our primary sponsor, Kilroy Realty, and the army of supporters who helped us reach this point. I’m feeling very blessed by their continued love and support, even in the moments when things don’t go our way.”

Editor’s note: This article was updated at 3 p.m. Friday, August 13, with comments from Maggie Shea.

Alayne Trinko

Alayne Trinko is an editorial intern who assists the editor-in-chief in reporting hyperlocal news, developing engaging multimedia, and building community trust. Alayne was a staff writer and Focus section editor for The DePaulia, DePaul University’s student-run newspaper. Alayne will be a junior studying journalism this fall and hopes to study abroad to conduct social justice reporting on women’s reproductive health issues in Africa or India in summer 2022. Follow her on Twitter @AlayneTrinko.

Related Stories