In a year of sporting ups and downs, it was Australia’s sailors that provided a shining light at the end of 2011, taking an impressive three gold medals at the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships. The newly crowned World Champions are some of the athletes selected today by the Australian Olympic Committee to compete at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Defending their World Title from 2010, Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page won the 470 World Championships. The win was their second together and Page’s fifth overall, having previously won three with skipper Nathan Wilmot.
'The World Champs were a great check-in on our international competition,' Page said. 'It was great confirmation for us on our progress and how we are tracking leading into the Olympics.'
London will be Page's third Olympic Games after he and Wilmot took gold in the 470 at Beijing 2008, and he will attempt to become the first Australian sailor to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals.
'Defending the gold medal is what drives me for London,' he said. 'I remember when I won my second World Championships that there was so much less pressure than when I won the first one, and I think it is the same for the Olympics. I see it as being an advantage to my competition that I’ve won gold before – I know I can do it again.'
Racing the 49er class will be Lake Macquarie’s Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen. The 2011 World Title was the second for the pair, and Outteridge’s third overall, showing them to be in formidable form ahead of this year’s Olympic competition.
'Since missing out on a medal in Beijing all I have thought about is getting to London and righting that wrong,' said Outteridge, who capsized when leading in the final race in 2008 missing a medal and coming fifth.
'I’ve got a new partner and we have been racing really well over the last three years. I grew up with Iain and we get on really well and work really well together – in fact we’ve never placed worse than fourth in a 49er regatta .'
Outteridge and Jensen are undefeated at the Olympic course, winning three World Cup events there in addition to the Test Event.
'We both feel confident in the course at Weymouth – it’s a great venue with a variation of conditions. We’ve been able to work out the main tricks and train for them back home in Australia where conditions are pretty similar,' Outteridge said.
Perhaps the athlete with the most determination and the most to prove of himself in the Australian Team is Laser sailor Tom Slingsby.
Going into the Beijing Games as the favourite to take out the Laser event, Slingsby did not have the campaign he had envisaged, finishing 22nd.
Since that result however, the Central Coast sailor has gone from strength to strength. With four World Championship Titles and the 2010 ISAF World Sailor of the Year award under his belt, Slingsby is well placed to continue his great run at the Olympic venue in Weymouth where he is currently undefeated after four events.
Heading to an impressive fourth Olympic Games is windsurfer Jessica Crisp. Competing in the Mistral class at the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Games, Crisp finished fifth and sixth respectively. She then finished fifth again at the Beijing 2008 Games, where the RS:X class was contested.
Crisp will be looking to improve on her top five finishes and will be eyeing a medal on the Weymouth course where she finished eighth at the 2011 Test Event.
'I’m excited to be heading to my fourth Games,' 42-year-old Crisp said. 'I’ve upped my training load since the Worlds and I’m focused on chasing down that medal that has eluded me so far.'
Crisp will spend the best part of the next six months training with the top women in her sport over in Europe, working on her performance in cold and windy conditions that will prepare her for the Weymouth environment.
'For me it’s a real mental game,' Crisp said of the tough 10-day windsurfing competition. 'I came pretty close to a medal last time and since then I have been working a lot on my mind and learning how to perform at my best all the time. The Olympics require extreme mental endurance and I’m just trying to make the best of myself and be ready for it.'
Further athlete selections in the other Olympic classes to the sailing section of the Team will take place in May.
In particular, the nomination process continues in Women’s Match Racing and there is strong competition between two talented crews vying for one Olympic spot.
Sailing at the London 2012 Olympic Games will take place from Sunday 29 July – Saturday 11 August in Weymouth and Portland, approximately three hours south of London.
Athletes selected to the sailing section of the 2012 Australian Olympic Team:
Name Class Age Born Lives
Mathew Belcher 470 29 Gold Coast, QLD Gold Coast, QLD
Malcolm Page 470 39 Sydney, NSW Sydney, NSW
Nathan Outteridge 49er 25 Newcastle, NSW Lake Macquarie,
Iain Jensen 49er 23 Belmont, NSW Lake Macquarie,
Tom Slingsby Laser 27 Gosford, NSW Gosford, NSW
Jessica Crisp RS:X 42 Sydney, NSW Sydney, NSW