Australia’s Matthew Belcher and Malcolm Page will be the pair to beat in the Men’s 470 at the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition having won three World Championship titles in a row.
The pair have blown the competition away in recent times and on 2 August they will be part of the 27-boat fleet that begin their Olympic Sailing Competition on the Nothe Course.
© Yachting Australia: Matthew Belcher and Malcolm Page
Not only do they have their 470 titles to their name they have an unbeaten run that stretches from December 2011 where they picked up their second consecutive world title together proving they are a force to be reckoned with.
Page comes into London 2012 as the defending Men’s 470 Olympic Champion having won gold with Nathan Wilmot in Beijing 2008, a feat he is keen to repeat, “There’s no better feeling than flying the flag as high as possible and the dream is to have the middle flag on the three posts at London 2012.”
On his memories of the podium at Beijing 2008 Page said, “The key moment that got the tingle down my spine was when we were standing on that podium listening to my national anthem and watching my country flag go up. I get goosepimples now even when I think about it.”
Having won 420 Worlds title in 2000, Belcher was given the honour of carrying the Australian flag at the Sydney 2000. In that moment he caught the Olympic bug and having trained with Wilmot and Page in their build up for Beijing 2008 he missed out on selection. But going into London 2012 he is looking forward to representing his country on the global stage, “You can’t really take it for granted, it’ such a privilege to represent your country,” said Belcher. “To have this opportunity this time around we’re just going to make the most of it.”
Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic (CRO) will be one of the crews chasing the Australians for the coveted gold medal. The pair won the 470 European Championship in Largs, Scotland ahead of London 2012 and have finished on the podium at four consecutive 470 Worlds, including a gold medal in 2009. On their relationship together Marenic said, “We’ve sailed together for ten years now so we know each other very well and we also communicate really well which is the key and an important thing. We know each other since Optimists so we’re also really good friends. Until recently we even lived together.”
France’s Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos know what it takes to beat Belcher and Page on Weymouth waters having done so twice in 2011. The French duo finished second at the 2012 470 Worlds and will aim to push to Australians all the way.
Sydney 2000 bronze medallist Juan de la Fuente (ARG) will be one of the most experienced sailors in the fleet with London 2012 his fourth Olympic Games. He gives up ten years on his helm Lucas Calabrese but is excited by his young helm, “This is a new challenge with Lucas,” said de la Fuente.“He is really talented and young. He is new blood and wants to improve all the time and he trains really hard.”
Gideon Kliger and Eran Sela (ISR) won bronze at the Weymouth and Portland International Regatta, the Olympic Test Event, last year and have what it takes to mix it up at the top. The pair are focused and have worked well together in the build-up to London 2012.Kliger said, “Naturally our target is the gold medal. We will work hard to achieve that. We are not the only ones I guess, but this is our goal. We don’t want the bronze like the test event!”
Paul Snow Hansen and Jason Saunders are part of a balanced New Zealand sailing team with a blend of experience and newcomers amongst the ranks. The pair, both 21, have World Cup medals with a best performance of eighth at four 470 Worlds competed in together. Despite their youth Snow-Hansen is hoping for a good performance, “Hopefully we’ll be in the running for the medals but we’ll sail our best and see. We’ve got a good range of sailors with a few who have done a lot of Olympics and we’ve got a lot of young guys. The experienced guys have a lot to teach us.”
Other frontrunners will include Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell (GBR) who have the home water knowledge, Sven and Kalle Coster (NED), Ferdinand Gerz and Patrick Follman (GER) and Ryunosuke Harada and Yugo Yoshida (JPN). But the fleet is strong and upsets can happen.
The Men’s 470 fleet set sail at 12:00 local time on 2 August on the Nothe Course. The fleet enjoy a lay day on 5 August before racing resumes on 6 August. The Men’s 470 will play to the Nothe Spectator area again on 9 August where the gold medallists will be decided after the Medal Race.