by Craig Heydon
Olympic gold medalist Mathew Belcher announced Thursday his new sailing partner, Will Ryan, to begin his four-year build-up towards the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Ryan, who already worked with Belcher and coach Victor Kovalenko in the past, replaced Malcolm Page who retired from Olympic class sailing following another golden feat at the 2012 London Olympics.
New Australian 470 crew Will Ryan and Mathew Belcher
Belcher won gold in the 470 class at London 2012 alongside Malcolm Page, capping off an impressive four years for the pair where they won three World Championships, three ISAF Sailing World Cup titles and were ranked number one in the world since the middle of 2010.
Page retired from Olympic class sailing after London 2012, with Belcher and Ryan today setting out to continue Australia’s successful run in the class.
'I’m really excited to begin the long road to Rio, building on the success Malcolm and I had,' said Belcher. 'Equally I’m really excited to sail with Will, he was our reserve crew for the Olympics and trained with us almost every day for three years.
'Will’s motivation and dedication is going to keep pushing me hard and hopefully give us the opportunity to defend the gold that Malcolm and I won in London,' he said.
Ryan, 23, and previous skipper Sam Kivell, worked closely with Belcher, Page and coach Victor Kovalenko in the lead up to London 2012, most recently finishing 11th at the Sail for Gold Regatta in Weymouth in June.
'I’ve been involved in the program for a while and that brings a real sense of familiarity,' said Ryan. 'We were in Weymouth with the guys until the day the venue closed before the Games, I know how the program works and know how it operates and am really looking forward to being a part it.'
Ryan was back home in Australia when Belcher and Page won Olympic gold and is keen to experience that himself.
'It was great to see the guys win at the Games, a fantastic achievement,' said Ryan. 'When it all came together it was amazing, I proudly wore around my Australian sailing gear for days afterwards.'
Victor Kovalenko said that while the London Games was a great time for Australian sailing the team is now focused on Rio 2012.
'London was fantastic, a great team effort for all of our sailors and all of our team members but now we are focused on Rio and our whole team is stronger,' said Kovalenko. 'Will has been a big part of our team and our success leading up to London and it will be very interesting to work with these two young gentlemen to produce something new for sailing.'
Belcher and Ryan will be in action at the opening round of the ISAF Sailing World Cup, Sail Melbourne next month, with racing beginning on 3 December, but it won’t be the first time the pair have raced together.
In 2010 Belcher and Ryan competed in the 470 Spring Cup in France together, a regatta that they won, before finishing sixth at an ISAF Sailing World Cup round a few weeks later.
'We’re lucky and fortunate that Victor Kovalenko will continue with us as well, we’ve kept the core members of our squad together as we move towards Rio,' said Belcher. 'The 470 has been a very successful class for Australia and we’re looking forward to working towards winning Victor’s sixth gold medal for Australia, my second and Will’s first.'
For more information on the Australian Sailing Team visit the Australian Sailing Team website.