by Rob Mundle
The names of all nominees for Rolex World Sailor of the Year 2013 were released today. When it comes to current international sporting success there are few athletes on the world stage who could match the achievements of Australian Olympic sailing gold medallist, Mat Belcher.
In the past two years he has not been beaten in the intensely competitive Olympic 470 dinghy class – and he is working hard to keep it that way until after the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Apart from winning Olympic gold in the 470 class in London last year, Belcher has won every one of the last 17 major class championships he has contested around the world. Thisincludes four consecutive world championships and two European championships. He has been at the top of the world rankings in the class for almost three years.
Now, the Gold Coast-based sailor is hoping it will be third time lucky when it comes to being named this year’s International Sailing Federation’s Rolex World Sailor of the Year 2013. For an unprecedented third time in the past four years Belcher has been named as one of the five contenders for the prestigious award.
The World Sailor of the Year award will be voted on by national sailing bodies representing 133 countries. The winner will be announced at a spectacular event in Oman on November 12. The other contenders are François Gabart (FRA), the youngest ever winner of the Vendée Globe round the world race; kiteboard course racing champion Johnny Heineken (USA); Paul Larsen (AUS), the world sailing speed record holder; and the 2012 match racing World Champion, Ian Williams (GBR).
‘To become Rolex World Sailor of the Year 2013 would crown what has been an amazing journey through sailing for me in recent years,’ Belcher said after being advised by the International Sailing Federation he was a contender for the award. ‘It would also make 2013 an even more memorable year personally as my wife, Rike, and I became parents to a baby boy, Anton, just a few weeks ago.’
With his long-time crewman, Malcolm Page, having retired from competitive sailing following the gold medal victory in London, Belcher has secured the services of lanky 24-year-old, Will Ryan, from Lake Macquarie, NSW, as crew for the 470. The new combination is already off to an impressive start, winning the2013 World and Open European championship as well as every other event where they have sailed together.
Now back in Australia, Belcher and Ryan are already locked into preparation for the next Olympics. They are currently part of an extensive training program being conducted out of Southport Yacht Club, on the Gold Coast, by Yachting Australia’s head coach, Victor Kovalenko, the world’s most successful Olympic sailing coach.