By the time they got back to the dock, the sting of losing the gold medal had worn off and American sailors John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree were smiling again.
The Olympic silver medals they had just won in the Tornado class looked nice after all, especially since it took them 11 years to get to the podium. They had a chance at the gold, but it disappeared in the wake of a stunningly fast Austrian catamaran.
Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher so dominated the deciding race Saturday that they'd been splashing around in the Saronic Gulf in celebration for several minutes by the time most of the rest of the fleet finished, including the Americans.
"As soon as the race was over, we had our heads down a little bit," said Ogletree, a sailmaker from Houston. "And as we get to shore and start talking to our friends and family, it's all starting to be pretty good."
Lovell and Ogletree won just the second sailing medal for the United States at these Games. It was their first in three Olympics.
"It's just terrific," said Lovell, an accountant from New Orleans who's the skipper. "I've been dreaming about an Olympic medal for a long, long time, and finally got one. It's a huge day for me."
America's Cup star Paul Cayard won't be going home with a medal.
Cayard and crew Phil Trinter were a long shot at a medal in the Star class, but were last in the 16-boat fleet Saturday to finish fifth overall.
"That was a frustrating way to end it," said Cayard, in his first Olympics at 45. "If I sailed everything perfect and something didn't work out, it might be easier to accept. But I really know a lot of places I made terrible mistakes during this regatta. That's frustrating."
Brazil's Torben Grael and Marcelo Ferreira clinched the Star gold Thursday, giving Grael an Olympic-record five sailing medals. Canada's Ross MacDonald and Mike Wolfs took the silver, and France's Xavier Rohart and Pascal Rambeau the bronze. Cayard and Trinter finished 17 points out of the bronze.
Lovell and Ogletree came in to the Tornado final trailing the Austrians by three points. When they tried to engage the Austrians in a match race, Hagara was too elusive.
"We sort of got control a couple times, but he picked us off on several spectator boats, press boats and then on the committee boat," Lovell said. "So we never really got into a controlling position."
The Austrians, the defending champions, played the wind shifts right to make huge gains. They beat the French by 47 seconds. Lovell and Ogletree finished 10th, six minutes behind the Austrians.
"The way they sailed today, no one stood a chance to beat them," Lovell said. "They really sailed terrific. It would have been tough for us to get the gold, but we gave it our best shot."