Australia's Belcher predicts 470 battle with Brits all the way to Rio
by Rob Kothe and Jedda Murphy on 7 Apr 2013
Under 470 coaching wizard Victor Kovalenko Australia has dominated the Olympic 470 Class. From 2000 onwards they have won five Olympic Gold medals and already the portents are there for Rio in 2016.
Belcher and Ryan lead the 470 fleet heading into the finals Thom Touw © http://www.thomtouw.com
In 2000 Australian won Men and Women’s 470 Gold and Mat Belcher, as a school boy, 420 World Champion had the great honour of carrying the Australian flag at the 2000 Olympics closing ceremony.
Dial forward and Mat Belcher and his elder brother Dan were in 2007 the World number one ranked team but lost the 470 Men’s 2008 Australian Olympic selection to Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page, who won Gold in Qingdao.
Belcher then won London 2012 Gold with Malcolm Page and with Page's retirement Belcher and his new crew, 24 year old Will Ryan, are campaigning for Rio.
Today at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia, 30 year Belcher was smiling as he came back onto the Playa de Palma in Mallorca after taking a fourth in the first medal race keeping them in the overall lead. When the second race was blown out, he and Will Ryan took the 470 Gold.
‘We really enjoyed this regatta. It is just so great to be back on the circuit. The challenges, the closeness of the racing that is one of the great things about the class.
‘We've particularly happy to see Luke Patience and Joe Glanfield up there, It’s just good mates out there on the race course. We have a great deal of respect for each other as crews. ‘
Will Ryan, ‘This week has been a massive learning experience. Not only for sailing with Mat in a different dynamic but being with the coach as well.
‘The new format is not ideal for us but at the same time it has created a new dynamic which, for us, as a new crew has been quite testing and is really making us focus and not only look at ourselves but at the bigger picture going forwards. Hopefully ISAF will change it round to reward consistency in the future.
Mat Belcher again, 'Our focus this week has been on developing as a team. You have got to win a few events to get there.
'We won most of the light wind races and certainly the consistency of our results across a big spread of wind ranges shows that we are in the frame. We have got our things that we want to work on and where we want to be as a team but obviously we can improve in lots of areas and we have got a long way to go.
Looking back over the last few years, in the latter stages leading up to London, Malcolm and I were dominant. A few times I complained to Victor about what a grind it was because the expectations were there, so high all the time, everybody was trying to knock us off.
Victor said, 'What do you expect. You have set the standard and it comes with the territory.'
‘I hope Will and I can do that going forward too. In this new format it will be harder to dominate that but it obviously easier for the young guys coming through to get up there.
‘Today was a classic example why we don’t have so much importance on the last day because we had a lot time pressures for us being the last start and the race was blown out. The conditions are very variable and it was really challenging out there. We are really happy with how we sailed. A mis-fortune with our spinnaker halyard getting caught around the bottom mark when we were leading and we lost a few places. We had a great week and it was really nice to share this week together.
‘We can take confidence as a team but the reality is it’s the first regatta of the European season and we've had more regatta time than the others. We are definitely more in form than some of the others and I am certainly that by the time our worlds come around it will probably be a different story. We will see how we go.
‘I have been in this class for 14 years but I really enjoy it and I like the challenge.
‘I can see ourselves and the British pairing duking it out for the next three years and we are really looking forward to it. They have only sailed together for a few weeks and already they are coming up to speed.
Kovalenko agrees the British Team Patience and Glanfield will be very strong.
'They have between them three 470 Olympic Silver medals and they are very motivated now to get a Gold and they will work very hard to do this one. They will be amongst our strongest opponents I would say. We respect them as athletes, and as sailors and ashore we are good friends and this is what makes our sport so rewarding.
‘But we see depth in teams like GBR, very good potential and a very deep system in the French team. They are working very hard. Very interesting potential in Spanish, Greek and many other teams too. It’s going to be a great quad.
Luke Patience was upbeat, 'It’s funny isn’t it. We had such a good battle at the Olympics last year and the Aussies are clearly dominant in this class. I know they are a new pairing and I have got a new pairing with Joe Glanfield now but we do have some wonderful races together at this regatta.
'It is always tight, every inch counts when we are racing those guys. Joe and I have only been in the boat together a couple of weeks really so results for us wasn’t even on our radar for this regatta.
'This was about building our routines in the boat and building the strength and really working out how we fit together.
'To come away with a medal is just an added bonus to that. It really wasn’t, as I said, on our radar so we are happy. Now if once again we could be going into the final day at the Olympics in three and a half years with a guaranteed Olympic medal fighting it out with the Aussies, that will be a cool place to be.'