In one of the greatest comebacks in Olympic sailing history, USA's Star team of Mark Reynolds (San Diego, Calif.) and Magnus Liljedahl (Miami, Fla.) won the gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Assured of at least a bronze going into today's 11th and final race of the series, the duo had to battle only two teams in the bid for a better medal color. The teams were Brazil's defending gold medallists Torben Grael and crew Marcelo Ferreira at the top of the scoreboard and Great Britain's Ian Walker and Mark Covell in second overall.

Earning the right to share the spotlight in this final showdown came only after Reynolds/Liljedahl fought back from an uncharacteristically ugly first half of their series. As tense as that situation had been, however, today's single race had it beat for drama. After nearly an hour's delay for the noon start, a building 10-12 knot breeze phased in, and again -- as it had been for the regatta's entirety -- it was shifty and difficult to read. Brazil worked to stay close to USA, but the team's aggressiveness backfired when it jumped the gun. Surprisingly, Brazil never turned back, burdening them with a disqualification and, worse, stripping them of their golden opportunity.

Reynolds/Liljedahl, also forced over early at the start, immediately spun around the pin to exonerate themselves.

"USA restarted, took a bunch of transoms and went right, while everyone else except Canada went left," said Team Leader Hal Haenel, who was watching from shore with tens of hundreds of spectators. "Then Canada rounded the top mark in first, with USA right behind them. It was a beautiful thing."

Reynolds and Liljedahl, holding tight to their second place, sailed the rest of the race not knowing that Brazil, which rounded most of the marks in tenth before finishing in the same position, was out of contention. "We were counting at each mark. All we were thinking was that we had to put five points on them," said Reynolds. "At the same time we had to watch Great Britain. It was who beat whom, and they turned out to be right behind us in the end. We were only loosely covering them. We would've covered tighter if we knew it was over for Torben." Great Britain had snuck back from ninth at the first mark to third in the end, finishing 31 seconds behind USA. While USA had stolen the gold, Great Britain had maintained for silver and Brazil, despite their blunder, had salvaged the bronze.

"We knew we had to be aggressive today, but we were overly aggressive at the start," said Reynolds, with Liljedahl adding, "It was obvious we were over, but we were in a good spot to get right back in the race. We had the lowest quality medal already, so we knew we might gain if things went well."

This is USA's first gold medal since 1992, when Reynolds, with Hal Haenel as crew, took the top spot on the podium in Barcelona. (They also had claimed the silver medal in Pusan in 1988.) Teaming with Liljedahl in 1995, Reynolds began again an Olympic quest that would take him to his fourth Games. Since their Trials, Reynolds and Liljedahl have won the Star World Championships, Kiel Week and a slew of other major competitions. No team had a better chance at gold than Reynolds/Liljedahl going in; however, a rough series start had the Star fleet's top dogs almost counting USA out. After stringing together a 14-3-10-5-6-10, Reynolds and Liljedahl maintained that they weren't doing anything different than usual. They had simply called the shifts wrong as many sailors had during this regatta. Then they wrapped with a 1-2-4-1-2, simply by "balancing out mistakes in the first half by making good moves in the second half." Reynolds considered this gold medal harder fought than the one in '92, when he did not have to sail his last race. "It was definitely tougher, and it means a lot." He has not discounted a shot at the 2004 Olympics. For Liljedahl, his first trip to the Olympics is exactly how he planned it to be. "You visualize yourself on the podium," he said. "You dream about it, and it comes true." This was the USA's fourth medal in sailing, after its 470 men's and women's teams each won silver and its 49er team won bronze.

Russ Silvestri (San Francisco, Calif.) finished 16-3 today to complete his Olympic Regatta with a sixth overall among a fleet of 25. He had a long shot at a medal today, but it didn't happen for him. "My start was death in the first race," he said. "I was more concerned with the wind than the current, and that was a bad move. And then I went the wrong way. The second race I had a good start and I was going fast. But I guess in all, I made three bad decisions in the regatta that cost me the silver medal."

About his experience here, Silvestri added, "It was fun, it was a great experience, and I loved the intensity. I'm happy to have been here, but I would've been happier to take home a memento instead of just a diploma." As far as his sailing future, Silvestri says he'll forego America's Cup sailing next time around and plans to sail his world championship next year. "I've got good equipment, a good boat, good mast. It'd be a shame to throw it all away."

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Final Results

Europe - 27 boats (Final)
1. GBR 37
2. NED 39
3. ARG 51
16. USA 104, Courtenay Dey

Finn - 25 boats (Final)
1. GBR 35
2. ITA 46
3. SWE 47
6. USA 64, Russ Silvestri

470 M - 29 boats (Final)
1. AUS 38
2. USA 42, Foerster/Merrick
3. ARG 57

470 W - 19 boats (Final)
1. AUS 33
2. USA 47, JJ Isler/Glaser
3. UKR 48

49er - 17 boats (Final)
1. FIN 55
2. GBR 60
3. USA 64, McKee/McKee

Laser - 43 boats (Final)
1. GBR 42
2. BRA 44
3. AUS 60
12. USA 100, John Myrdal

Mistral M - 36 boards (Final)
1. AUT 38
2. ARG 43
3. NZL 48
11. USA 92, Mike Gebhardt

Mistral W - 29 boards (Final)
1. ITA 15
2. GER 15
3. NZL 19
4. USA 45, Lanee Butler

Soling - 16 boats (Fleet Racing)
1. NOR 16
2. NZL 18
3. NED 19
4. USA 24, Madrigali/Healy/Jordan

Soling (Round Robin 2)
Qualified for Quarterfinals DEN, 4-1; 4 GER, 3-2; 3 RUS, 3-2; 3
Eliminated: SWE, 3-2; 3 AUS, 1-4; 1 USA, 1-4; 1

Star - 16 boats (Final)
1. USA 34, Reynolds/Liljedahl
2. GBR 35
3. BRA 39

Tornado - 16 boats (Final)
1. AUT 16
2. AUS 25
3. GER 38
7. USA 57, Lovell / Ogletree