by Herman Hell
Mathew Belcher does not seem to be a man of superlatives. 'I just had a pretty decent run,' says the Australian with an impish smile. Yes, you can put it this way when you have won the 470 Worlds three times in such a short period, got Olympic gold, been appointed World Sailor of the Year and now became skipper of the Australian America’s Cup team.
Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan, 470 Class
The 31 year old refers to himself to as a 'slow learner'. But the Australian Program is very good and providing a lot of support, said Belcher at press conference at Kieler Woche. He has been supported for 15 years and has a very good trainer. It took nevertheless ten years to be able to win the Worlds for the first time. And two times his attempt to qualify for the Olympics failed. With Malcom Page as crew, his dream came true in 2012.
'To win gold on my first participation in the Olympic games was an incredible experience. And I could share my excitement with my wife, who was also participating.' His wife Friederike (born Ziegelmayer) did start with Kathrin Kadelbach for Germany. And the whole family Ziegelmayer had a good reason to celebrate with Mathew, since they own the boatyard, from where Belcher had been equipped with the winning material. But Belcher denies the idea to once start together with his wife for Germany in the Olympics - there is a class with mixed teams in the Nacra 17. 'I am an Australian from the bottom of my heart, I just love the country.' With his wife and his son, who was born in September, he is profiting from the sunny side of both countries: From March until October, the family lives in Hamburg, the rest of the year, they live in Australia.
Regarding his sailing career, Belcher is also on the sunny side of life. The appointment in 2013 as Sailor of the Year is a special honour for him: 'I do not know the selection criteria in detail, but after having been nominated three times, the chances were obviously good to make it this time,' says Belcher. The timing of the election was just right for him regarding his sport in Australia. 'This supports our ambition to make the sport more popular. In 1983 when they won the America’s Cup, it was on a top level. And now we are very successful in the Olympic sector.' So a new challenge in the America’s Cup just had to follow. 'You have to train individual capabilities first and then create a team from that. We have those capabilities. And you have to have a personality of course, saying that it is the right time now. This is sure the same for Germany, because they have got the talents.'
For him his appointment as skipper of the Australian AC team is a wise utilisation of experiences. But his focus is still on another participation at the Olympic games, but this time with Will Ryan. The 25 year old came out on top against many other sailing colleagues, who also wanted to be Belcher’s crew. The coordination Belcher/Ryan worked well right from the beginning. Their first regatta together ended with a victory. 'I am very happy to have made it on board. Because I had been a training partner before, I could assess the advantages and disadvantages of an Olympic campaign', says Ryan. And from this campaign the public expects nothing less than Olympic gold. 'It is that way and we just have to deal with the pressure. But to make it a second time is very difficult', says Belcher. Too difficult? Belcher laughs: 'I am going to tell you in two years.'