by Rob Kothe
The weather conditions expected for the Beijing Olympic regatta were light and lighter. Four years of concentrating on light weather sailing taught Australia’s 470 sailors that the lightest weight combinations were winning races,
Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page (AUS) 470 Class Gold Medal with their coach Victor Kovalenko Olympic 2008 Qingdao
The Australian 470 skipper 28 year old Nathan Wilmot at 183cm (6 foot) tall arrived for weigh in at an impossibly skinny 62kg, while his 36 year old crew Malcolm Page just 2.5cm (1”) taller was 68kg. With multiple World titles under their belt, the Aussies went to the regatta as favourites; they sailed conservatively and were an unbeatable 22 points ahead of the Danes at the end of the qualifying rounds.
In the Mens medal race Wilmot and Page handed the Gold Medal fleet a light weather sailing lesson. Determined to sail a clean race, the Australians started on port and crossed behind the fleet, but still rounded the top mark in the lead and crossed the line first to emphasize their domination of the class.
Page was full of praise for the on water management. 'We had eleven fair races, there was no lucky winners. Today was certainly the best weather we had, we were fully on the trapeze. '
Praise too from Australian super coach and 470 Medal Maker Victor Kovalenko. 'Malcolm and Nathan are the best 470 team I’ve seen in 25 years.'
'We are retiring from the 470 Class' said Page after receiving his Gold Medal. 'Don’t be surprised if a much heavier Nathan turns up on the helm of a Star' he smiled. 'I feel I have another Olympic campaign in me, but time will tell.Right now, we are just looking forwarding to eating, lots and lots.'
The other Australian 470 Gold Medal winning team just did not have a dieting problem at all...
Elise Rechichi & Tess Parkinson 470 Gold Medallists
At the 2006 Olympic test event in Qingdao, China, young Australian sailor Elise Rechichi slipped on a dinghy launching ramp, fell and came up spluttering with as mouth full of polluted sea water. Rechichi became so ill that she withdrew from the event.
The lightly framed, former gymnastics lost 10kg from her 50kg, she became so seriously ill, her family feared for her life. With the best medical intervention it took more than six months before she was free of her debilitating illness.
Rechichi recovered in time to win the 2007 Olympic test event, in Qingdao in the 470 women’s class with Tessa Parkinson, and then bronze at this year’s world Championships.
While their early experiences of Qingdao was quite aweful, Rechichi now a trim 48kg and 62kg Parkinson enjoy sailing here and they went into the medal race with an 18 point lead.
Parkinson commented“We’ve spent nine months here over the last four years. We like the light conditions and its warm, we really love that.’
Today they stayed with ther Dutch rivals, the only team who could spoil their potential Gold Medal winning performance. The Dutch were pushed back in the fleet, while the Australians finished ninth and the second Gold Medal of the day was secured for Australia.
Dockside ‘Like all athletes, we had some tough moments over the last four years, but that makes our Gold Medal so special. We knew Malcolm and Nathan would win today and we had to stay focussed. ‘
Its a big night out for the Australian 470 team – as they sailed out of the village for a big night on the town. Double Golds in 2000, repeated again in 2008 and if the Australians have there way, the sailing world can expect to see a serious pitch at a 470 double in 2012.