Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze they kept alive the Brazilian tradition of taking the podium in sailing since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Tokyo Olympic Games it was no different. The pair came in first place in the early morning of Tuesday in the decisive regatta of the 49er FX class and won the gold medal. It was the duo’s second participation in an Olympics and the second time they have won a medal, after the Olympic gold at Rio 2016. “After such a tough week, it’s hard to process,” said Kahena shortly after the victory. With the result, Brazil now accumulates 12 medals and leaves the country in 16th place in the tournament.
Martine and Kahena finished third in the last race, but still finished the tournament in first, ahead of rivals from Dutch Annemiek Bekkering and Anette Duetz from Germany’s Tina Lutz and Susann Beucke, direct rivals for the title. “We went by instinct. The trick was to stay calm and sail as we know, putting into practice all these years we’ve been sailing together”, said Kahena. The Brazilian duo is number one in the world in the 49er FX class ranking. In addition to the Olympic medals, the pair won one gold and four silvers in world championships, as well as one gold and one silver in the Pan American Games.
Daughters of experienced sailors and champions in their categories, they both come from winning bloodlines in the sport. Kahena, 30, is the daughter of Claudio Kunze, world junior champion in the Penguin class in the 1970s. In the case of Martine, also 30, the medal in Tokyo 2020 is the Grael family’s ninth medal, symbol of victory in the Olympic Games. His father, Torben Grael, is the biggest Olympic medalist in Brazil, alongside fellow sailor Robert Scheidt, both with five medals. Torben has two golds, one silver and two Olympic bronzes. Martine’s uncle Lars has two bronze medals in Games. According to her, her uncle, who had an accident in 1998 and lost his leg, was her greatest inspiration.
The sport entered the duo’s lives very early on, influenced by the family. It was at the age of four that Martine started sailing at the Rio Yacht Club. In 2004 and 2006 she was two-time Brazilian champion in the Optimist class, the sailing entry category recommended for 16 year olds. At that time, she was Kahena’s opponent, who also started sailing very early on the Guarapiranga Reservoir, in São Paulo, before moving to Rio at the age of 10. The friendship out of water was taken into the boat and, in 2009, the two began to compete together in the 420 class.
“It was a cycle of one year more, it was five years that we spent between sadness and happiness”, explained Martine after the final race, about how the pandemic impacted the duo’s work. Kahena said she hopes that gold will bring other women into the sport. “We have girls who already have our last medal opened the horizon, and that’s what we want. We want to inspire and bring the female candle as a legacy.”
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