Hometown Hype

Famous names abound in the Brazilian sailing squad set to start racing next week in the Olympics.

Brazil Olympics

The Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition

Brazil's Nacra 17 Team practices on Guanabara Bay earlier this week.Sailing Energy/World Sailing

When Robert Scheidt, 5-time Olympic medalist in the Laser and Star class, ascended the stage to take the Olympic oath on behalf of the athletes at the Rio 2016 Opening Ceremonies, both the Brazilian team and their international competition paid full attention. It was a huge moment for the sport of sailing and for Scheidt, who is a household name in Brazil. His name and face is now tantamount to the Rio Olympic Games, and of the sport of Olympic sailing.

Scheidt will sail in his home waters when the Laser begins competition on August 8, and attempt to break the record for most medals held by a single sailor. In past Games he was tapped as a medal contendor early on, and while the local knowledge swings decisively in his favor, Scheidt predicts Great Britain’s Nick Thompson will be his greatest threat on the course. “It may be the first Olympics where I'm not arriving as the favorite,” he says.

Robert Scheidt Rio 2016 Olympic Games

The Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition

Brazil's Laser sailor Robert Scheidt takes the Olympic oath on behalf of all competing athletes during the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.Sailing Energy/World Sailing

“He’s got a huge amount of experience sailing here,” says Thompson of Schedit. “I’m sure he feels very comfortable in the venue, he spent so much time sailing here in the past even when he was younger. I’ve done as much as I could do to prepare, and now it’s down to the competition.”

Scheidt sees the hometown advantage as one that extends to the entire Brazillian Olympic team. "The energy of being in our country, with our fans, eating our feijao, drinking our orange juice, all the things that you love from this country — all this gives you a different energy and will make the Brazilian athletes have more confidence to compete here," says Scheidt.

Scheidt wasn’t the only sailor with a special involvement in the Opening Ceremony. His wife, Laser Radial sailor Gintare Scheidt, carried the Lithuanian flag in the parade of nations. Sailing legend Torben Grael, whose daughter Martine is sailing in the 49erFX class and son Marco is sailing in the 49er, carried the Olympic flag into the stadium with five other legendary athletes from Brazil. The eldest Grael has taken on a coach role, for Brazil, in this Olympiad.

Robert Scheidt Rio 2016 Olympic Games

The Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition

Robert Scheidt gets in a practice session ahead of the opening of the Rio Olympics.Sailing Energy/World Sailing

If the Opening Ceremony was any evidence, sailing has solidified it's following in Brazil and growing internationally: Twelve sailors were flag-bearers during the parade of nations. It's safe to predict that, if any Brazilian sailors make it in to the medal races sailed on the Pao de Acucar racecourse, the beach will be packed with local and international fans. The finish pin, just a few hundred yards from the beach, will provide a thrilling conclusion. "You can fully expect, if a local sailor wins a medal, that there will be hundreds of people in the water," said World Sailing's Chief Marketing Officer Malcolm Page earlier this year. "The beach will be absolutely packed."