At the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition, Aussies Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page are set to go head-to-head with Brits Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell on Wednesday in a battle for the 470 men’s gold medal. Belcher and Page will take a four point lead over the British into the decider following two race wins on Tuesday, and as long as the Australians finish within one place of the hometown crew the gold will be theirs.
The Women’s Match Racing quarterfinals kicked off on Tuesday with Australia’s Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty coming up against the Dutch crew led by Renee Groeneveld. The Australian trio took the first race but the Dutch hit back, winning race two to make it one-all, with the first to three wins on Wednesday heading to the semifinal.
Elise and Rechichi and Belinda Stowell had a tough day on the water, with a ninth and a 14th in the 470 women’s fleet leaving them ninth overall. Just two races now remain before Friday’s medal race.
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page headed into the two final 470 fleet races with a one point lead over second placed Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell. The Australians got off to a great start in race one, rounding the top mark first and leading until the finish, with their British opponents fighting back through the pack.
In race two it was Belcher and Page who were forced to fight back, getting to the top mark in sixth. The reigning World Champions worked their way through the fleet, eventually overtaking the British for the lead. The Aussies extended on the final run to make it two wins from two starts.
'We’ve just got to keep sailing how we’re sailing,' said Page. 'Once we got those first day jitters out of the way we were back to our normal mojo. Since then there’s been eight races and we’ve beaten the British in seven of them. We’ve just got to keep that style going and trust ourselves.'
Heading into the medal race the Australians are now guaranteed at least a silver medal but will be fighting for gold with the British. The scenario is simple; as long as Belcher and Page finish within one place of the British Belcher will win an Olympic gold on debut and Page will become the first Australian sailor to win two gold medals, defending his Beijing 2008 crown.
'I’ll take any lead into the medal race,' said Belcher. 'The way we’re sailing, with 18 points from 10 races, I don’t think we could ask for anything more than that, we’ve really stepped it up. Our preparation this year has been fantastic and they’ve done the same.
'We’ve separated from the rest of the fleet, you’ve got teams that can match it or not and they did, credit to them,' he said. 'They’re sailing really well and it will be a great battle in the medal race and we’ll thoroughly enjoy it.'
When asked if one crew would be feeling the pressure more than the other Belcher’s response was to the point.
'To be honest you say whatever you need to say,' said Belcher. 'The medal race is a high pressure situation, it’s for the gold medal. If you say it’s blue when it’s red it doesn’t really matter. They’re going to be saying what’s good for them and we’re going to be saying what’s good for us. At the end of the day it’s going to be who beats who and we’re looking forward to the challenge.'
Australia’s Women’s Match Racing crew was back on the water on Tuesday for their first two quarterfinal matches. Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty went through the round robin undefeated, notching up a perfect 11 wins from 11 races.
The Australians are in the middle of a quarterfinal against the Netherlands with the scores currently locked at one-all. Price and crew dominated the first race, leading from start to finish to take the win. The Dutch returned fire in race two, taking the win to level the scores.
The first crew to score three wins when racing resumes on Wednesday afternoon will go through to the semifinal.
'Every race is important, we take data from it and we take it into the next one,' said Price. 'We’ll keep doing business as usual for tomorrow and we’ll just go racing.'
Curtis said the semifinals were the furthest thing from their minds at this stage of the event.
'We’re not thinking about it to be honest, we’re just taking every race as it comes and putting one foot in front of the other,' she said.
Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell went into the races seven and eight for the 470 women knowing that they would need to be towards the front of the fleet in both races to be in the fight for the medals on Friday.
Despite good starts the pair finished ninth and 14th and heading into Wednesday’s final two fleet races are ninth overall.
'It wasn’t an ideal day today,' said Rechichi. 'We had to gain some points and we pretty much threw them away so tomorrow we’ll go out and we’ve got to take a few risks to try and nail two bullets or something like that. We’ll see how it pans out and maybe we can end up in the fight for bronze depending on how it goes.'
Stowell said that they got off the line well both races but unfortunately found themselves back in the pack on each occasion.
'Our starts and first upwinds were good,' said Stowell. 'We rounded the top mark in good positions both times but just got a bit caught up on the downwinds, with our position and speed, we just weren’t as sharp as we needed to be.'
On Wednesday Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen will take an unassailable lead into the 49er medal race. The pair just needs to complete the race to claim Australia’s second sailing gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Australia’s 470 women and Women’s Match Racing crews will also be racing on Wednesday.
Current Australian standings:
Laser – Tom Slingsby – Gold medal winner
49er – Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen – first overall
470 men – Malcolm Page and Mathew Belcher – first overall
Women’s Match Racing – Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty – 1-1 in quarterfinal
470 women – Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell – ninth overall
RS:X women – Jessica Crisp – 11th overall - finished
Laser Radial – Krystal Weir – 12th overall – finished
Finn – Brendan Casey – 13th overall - finished
Australian Sailing Team website
by Craig Heydon
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6:51 PM Tue 7 Aug 2012GMT
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