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Aug 20, 2015 11:02 AM


Father and sons sailors share Olympic dream in Rio de Janeiro

Argentine Santiago Lange is close to taking part in his sixth Olympics. The decision of not competing in the Olympics anymore after the Beijing Games in 2008 was overturned after his sons Klaus and Yago announced they would compete together
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Santiago between sons Yago and Klaus. Photo:
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Yago and Klaus Lange: inspiration for the return of Santiago Lange to the Olympic Games. Photo: Carol Delmazo/
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Photo: Getty Images
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Photo: Getty Images
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Photo: Getty Images
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Santiago Lange (on the right) winning another Olympic bronze in Beijing 2008. Photo: Getty Images
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Santiago Lange. Photo: Redbull

Santiago Lange. Photo: Redbull

Santiago is one of those people who everyone speaks to. As he walks in the Marina in Gloria, in Rio de Janeiro, he is greeted in English, Spanish, Portuguese, or sometimes by a wave or glance. Among the over 300 athletes from 52 countries taking part in the Aquece Rio – International Sailing Regatta -, test event for the sport, few are more respected than the Argentinian sailor, who at the age of 53 is getting ready to take part in his sixth Olympics.

Two time bronze medal winner in the Tornado class, in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, Santi – as he is called, even by those who are not that close to him – did not have any more Olympic plans after China. He was involved with America's Cup, with much bigger teams and boats. However, something made him dream again with a medal at the Games. "My sons started to sail together and I decided to come back. If they were not taking part in an Olympic campaign, I would not have the energy to be here", he states.

He is referring to Yago and Klaus Lange, two of his four children, who have been competing together for two years in the 49er class. Klaus, who is twenty, started sailing when he was a kid. Yago (27) however, did not develop an interest for the sport until late. "It was late for me. I tried it at 10, but didn't like it. Then, when I was 20 and living in Europe, I got closer to boats through a job I did at the America's Cup and haven't stopped ever since.

Both were in different classes: Klaus in 29er and Yago in the Laser. In 2014, they decided to sail in the 49er in search of the Olympic dream. It is not difficult to imagine who was invited to coach them.

"I accepted and we started to work together. I actually went to some regattas with them, like the South American and World Championship. However, some months later, I was on holiday in Brazil, running one morning and decided: 'I don't want this'. I get really anxious seeing them competing, it's a lot of pressure. I'd rather be in the project in some way, but not directly", explains Santiago.

Thus, Santiago found a way of experiencing the Olympic campaign with his sons. Six years after Beijing, he started looking at the Olympics with athlete's eyes. "Cecília (Carranza) was with someone else, but they argued and she asked me to sail with her in the Nacra 17 class. In the beginning, it looked as if it wouldn't work out, we only sailed 50 days together last year, but we competed in the world championship and it was amazing, we finished second and I liked it a lot. We're now 100%", says the veteran sailor, adding that the mixed double has already qualified for the Rio 2016 Games.

Yago and Klaus Lange: inspiration for the return of Santiago Lange to the Olympic Games. Photo: Carol Delmazo/

Olympic stories

Santiago was 25 when he was in Seoul 1988 competing in the Soling class, but he was still an amateur athlete. The most important thing that year was not the result. "I was quite deluded, but wasn't ready. We finished ninth out of 25 boats. Sailing was not as professional then as it is now. My first Games were my first international competition, I had never been abroad. But it was an amazing experience", recalls the Argentine, who is also a naval architect who looked after his own shipyard.

Disputes with the Argentinian Federation stopped him from taking part in Barcelona 1992. It was a time when Santiago competed in several classes and lived in Europe. In 1993, the Laser class was included in the Olympic programme and he started training in the new boat, thinking of his return to the Games. But the colours that flew on his mast almost changed. "I lived in Spain and the Spanish wanted me to sail for Spain. Everything was almost set, until an Argentinian company heard of it and promised me the necessary conditions for me to prepare for the Olympics for Argentina. It got me a sponsor and I was able to sail for Argentina. Luckily. Fortunately", he said.

Training with Robert Scheidt

Santiago was 33 already, age which according to him can be a deterrent due to the physical effort required by the Laser class. And no one other than Brazil's double Olympic champion Robert Scheidt helped him in the adaptation process. "I trained with him a lot. I've always had a lot of respect for Robert and it's just not possible to have any problem with him. He is a great sportsman in every sense of the word. He was already really good and he helped me. He won the 1995 Pan Am and I was second. It was a beautiful experience", he recalls.

In Atlanta 1996, the year Scheidt won his first gold, Santiago did not manage to finish on the podium. "I was doing well, but I won the regatta that was challenged. They complained that I allegedly left the lane, but I hadn't. I could have fought for bronze, but this challenge made me lose my focus and I ended up in ninth", he recalls.

From the sea to frozen products

After Atlanta, Santiago stopped sailing for two years, answering to a request by his wife. They were tough times, which took him to an even more complicated decision. "I stopped, went to work for a frozen food distribution company. But in 2000, in the last opportunity to qualify for the Games, we split up, I gave up work and tried to qualify."

It was his passion for sport screaming higher. In Sydney 2000, for the Tornado class, the Olympic medal did not come. But it was a matter of time.

Two Olympic bronze

For Athens 2004, Santiago Lange got together with Carlos Espínola, sailor who had won two Olympic silver medals. The doubles won the bronze in the Tornado class in Greece. "The podium is amazing for anyone. Imagine for me, who had had several Olympic experiences? It was fantastic".

The second bronze would come four years later. "It was interesting in Beijing 2008. After Athens, I went to the American's Cup, but I didn't sail in Olympic classes anymore. We did the whole Olympic campaign in a year. It was very difficult. But we won another medal", he says.

However, dedication to sport had a price. "being away from my kids has always made me suffer. I've always been lucky, doing what I like the most", he adds.

At home in Buenos Aires, Klaus felt this. "For me it was very difficult, because my dad travelled a lot and was always away from home. It was difficult to talk to him, as he was always working. It was difficult for me", he says. But sport itself would change that.

Santiago Lange (on the right) winning another Olympic bronze in Beijing 2008. Photo: Getty Images

Path versus result

Different from his dad, Yago and Klaus are still fighting for an Olympic spot. Their main goal is to secure the country's participation in the 49er competition, which could happen in November, as the three first places in the World Championship, which will be held in Argentina, book their place at the Games. Then. They still need to go through the national selection process. "We're doing all we can to be here in Rio next year. For both of us is a dream and we're going to continue to work hard", states Klaus.

"Qualifying for the Olympic Games would be a dream, but we're aware that we have a long way to go. We have to make the most of it every day, training, competing. Of course you don't have to think a lot to understand that it would be beautiful to be here with our dad, everyone together. Our brothers could also come, our family to cheer for us. It's what everyone wants. But there are still a lot of things to do and we have to make the most of every day", adds Yago.

It was Yago's statement, but it could have been Santiago's. Father and son are in tune. "Just being here is a pleasure, I'm making the most of each moment. The Olympic campaign is not the result, but making the most of each step is. To come here and see my sons competing, this is more than special. It is difficult to describe. If we're all together next year, it'll be even better", says Santiago.

A few more greetings, one last bicycle ride on the Marina in Gloria and Santiago says goodbye. The regattas continue: the father steps out and the athlete steps in.

Carol Delmazo -