by Cora Zillich
On Monday night, 9 December 2013, the Australian Sailing Team (AST) kicked of its Rio 2016 Campaign at an internal function at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Sydney, including the team’s partners, patrons, representatives of Australia’s key sporting bodies as well sponsors. Guests included the Australian Olympic Committee’s 2016 Chef de Mission Kitty Chiller, the Australian Paralympic Committee's General Manager of Sport Michael Hartung as well as NSW Minister for Sport and Recreation Gabrielle Upton, MP, and Brasil’s Consul General in Australian, Carlos Henrique Moojen de Abreu e Silva.
Australian Sailing Team for Rio Olympics 2016 - Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney - 9/12/2013
The event took place on the back of a successful ISAF Sailing World Cup in Melbourne over the week-end, which saw Australian Sailing Team (AST) crews five times on top of the Olympic classes medal podium. In addition, Australian Sailing Team and Squad athletes added four silver and five bronze to their successful kick-off of the next Olympic and Paralympic campaign on the road to Rio.
'I believe Rio will be a very exciting event for us. We have enormous depth in the team. The number of athletes who have won gold and silver medals before is just terrific and it’s great to have them back to have another shot at Rio. We have a terrific array of athletes, coaches and management and I think we really have the team to, as politicians used to say, ‘bring home the bacon’. It’s an exciting time for the team and the sport of sailing in Australia', Yachting Australia president Matt Allen said addressing the guests.
The athletes who have successfully campaigned in London 2012 and have returned to the team for another campaign are gold medallists in the 49er class Nathan Outteridge (NSW) and Iain Jensen (NSW) as well as Mat Belcher, who post London successfully teamed up with crew Will Ryan (QLD) in the Men’s 470 class. The world ranked number one duo has been unbeaten since and just added a tenth win in a row in this combination to their lists of successes at the World Cup in Melbourne over the week-end – bringing Mat Belcher’s winning streak to a historic consecutive eighteen race wins.
Outteridge and Jensen, who also won their class in Melbourne, have only recently returned to the team after a stint with the America’s Cup for Artemis Racing.
'They’ve been away for a little while competing in the America’s Cup and it’s terrific to see them back and fantastic to have them back in the team. Their experience and influence for many of our new and younger sailors is really invaluable', Australian Sailing Team’s Performance Director Peter Conde said introducing the team.
London silver medallists in the Women’s Match Racing team Lucinda Whitty (NSW), Nina Curtis (NSW) and Olivia Price (NSW) are aiming for Rio as well. Between them they won a silver and two gold medals at the World Cup in Melbourne. Whitty has teamed up with Euan McNicol (NSW) in the Nacra 17 and Olivia Price with Eliza Solly (VIC) in the 49erFX. Nina Curtis has joined forces with dual Olympic silver medallist from Sydney and Beijing Darren Bundock (NSW), who has returned to the team with his eyes set on the top of the medal podium in Rio:
'Of course we want a gold medal. I already have two silver and Nina has a silver – we don’t want another one of them', Bundock said at the World Cup in Melbourne about his goals.
Tom Burton (NSW), who won the Laser in Melbourne and has been the World number one in this class for sometime, is successfully following the footsteps of London gold medallists Tom Slingsby (NSW), who is keeping his options on another Olympic campaign currently open.
Six athletes have newly qualified for the Australian Sailing Team, which requires the athletes to be in the top ten of the world. Amongst them are former Youth World Champions and Nacra 17 sailors Lisa Damanin (NSW) and Jason Waterhouse (NSW) as well as rower turned sailor Sarah Cook (VIC) in the Women’s 470. Cook teamed up with two-times Olympian and 2008 gold medallist Elise Rechichi post London. Western Australian sailors Matt Wearn (Laser) and Caitlin Elks (49erFX) also recently qualified for the AST.
In the Paralympic boat classes Paralympic gold medallist Liesl Tesch (NSW) and Daniel Fitzgibbon (NSW) in the Skudd class are part of the team on the road to Rio, as well as Paralympian Matt Bugg (TAS), who finished fourth at the 2013 World Championships in the 2.4mR. The trio of Russell Boaden (WA), Jonathan Harris (NSW) and Colin Harrison (WA), who this year won the bronze medal at the Sonar World Championships, are also aiming for another Paralympic campaign.
Peter Conde said, 'We have a great combination of returning and new and developing crew combinations in our team. It’s a terrific group of athletes and coaches and we are very excited about the journey ahead.'
Multiple Olympic gold medal winning coach and AST head coach Victor Kovalenko, OAM, received loud applause when outlining the pathway ahead:
'You are seeing the team for 2016. The standards for our team are very high. Just to get in you have to be a world-class performer. If you are in the top ten in the world you are already a potential medal winner for 2016 and that’s what we are working for. All of these athletes know how to win and they know what to expect at the games, they know how to operate under pressure and they will represent us.'
Addressing partners, patrons and sponsors he added: 'We are one team and you are part of the team and we thank you for your help, heart and support. You will share the journey with us as well as the moment of success, this unforgettable moment. And when these guys cross the finish line in Rio with fist up, all of you I’m sure will say ‘yes, we won’. Thank you very much for coming here to support us and for being one team with us. All of us will make Australia proud in our sport. We love sailing, we love the green and gold and we’ll make it happen again in Rio.'
The Rio launch also offered the opportunity to welcome new team sponsors to the team. These include Australian technical apparel producer Zhik, and leading global lifestyle brand Nautica®. They join Audi Australia and Hamilton Island as major co-sponsors of the Australian Sailing Team.
Both new partners will provide the team with cutting edge technical gear and lifestyle apparel until the end of 2016. Nautica, known for its water heritage, will provide the teams with the official non-competition uniforms. The partnerships combine Zhik’s tested and proven sailing expertise with the Nautica brand’s passion for performance and authentic design.
At the 2012 London Olympic Games the Australian Sailing Team was Australia’s most successful sport winning three gold and one silver medal. At the 2012 Paralympic Games the team won one gold medal. Apart from recently retired dual 470 class Gold Medallist Malcolm Page and London Gold medallist in the Laser and Americas Cup winner Tom Slingsby, who is keeping his options open for now, all London medallists have returned to the team with their eyes set on Rio.
Australian Sailing Team website