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Tocke returns with sailing hardware

TORONTO – For the second straight Pan Am Games, Buffalo native Kathleen Tocke will be leaving the sailing competition with a medal.

Sunday at the Royal Toronto Yacht Club, alongside 61-year-old skipper Augie Diaz, the 37-year-old collected a bronze in the Open Snipe – a 15-foot dinghy in contrast to other sailing categories that involve larger and more complex vessels.

Diaz and Tocke, who learned how to sail as a 10-year-old at the Buffalo Canoe Club, competed in 12 races featuring 10 boats over the past week. They finished in the top three seven times to earn their podium finish, enabling her to add this medal to the silver she won in Guadalajara four years ago.

“This week we always seemed to have one really good race and then one not-so-great race,” she laughed, while making it clear that she is nonetheless thrilled to have won bronze. Although she and Diaz were far off the pace of the gold-winning Puerto Ricans, they were within striking distance of Argentina so silver was a realistic goal heading into the final few races.

Tocke – who now lives in Miami, Newport, R.I. and La Garda, Italy, but insists she “gets back to Buffalo a lot” – said this was a memorable highlight in her sailing career. That’s not just because of the medal, but for the chance to be part of a Pan Am Games with sailing right in the heart of Toronto. In most multi-sport games, sailing has to be held far away from the Games’ center where all the action is, but with Toronto right on the lake, she was able to enjoy life in the athletes’ village and all that Toronto had to offer.

“The athletes’ village was just great,” said the five-time Snipe Class National Champion and two-time North American Champion, who is also a world-class windsurfer. “And having the city so close by is wonderful. We really do feel like we’re part of Toronto. And the people of Toronto have just been so welcoming. It really has been so special being part of this.”

Tocke, who speaks five languages and is a classically-trained lyric soprano, will now look ahead to trying to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games next summer. She said first she has a major competition in Rio de Janeiro coming up, followed by world championships not long after in Oman. The U.S. Olympic sailing trials will be in Miami at the end of January.