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Rivers of Gold: Belcher and Ryan crowned Men's 470 Olympic Champions

by Michael Martin 4 Aug 22:07 NZST 4 August 2021

Enoshima Yacht Harbour on Japan's Sagami Bay will forever hold a special place in the history of Australian sailing.

At the Tokyo 1964 Olympics it was the site of Australia's first Olympic sailing gold medal, with Bill Northam and the crew of the Barranjoey winning the 5.5 Metre class. It is also the venue of a last gold medal to be dished out in the Men's 470 class - to Australia again.

Today, the team of Mat Belcher and Will Ryan claimed Gold in a canter. They finished 22-points clear of the Swedish team of Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergstrom in second.

They only needed to complete today's contest to take Gold, but the dynamic duo put the final stamp on an impressive campaign by taking the Medal Race win.

Today's Gold is Australia's second in sailing at these Games, with Matt Wearn taking out the Laser class on Sunday.

"Relief," was Belcher's first emotion after crossing the finish line today. "We played it safe before the start and were a bit back, but halfway up the beat we realised we were in a position to do well in the race. Typical of our nation we flipped our gameplan and decided to try and win the race."

The win is vindication for the pair, who despite being hot favourites at the Rio Olympics five years ago came home with Silver.

"It's been a long journey," Belcher continued. "It has taken five years to take just one more step up on the dais and realise that dream together."

The win launches Belcher to legend status, as he becomes Australia's most decorated Olympic sailor with two Gold (he won the same event with Malcolm Page in 2012) and one Silver (with Ryan at Rio 2016).

The Queensland sailor shares the accolade as the greatest Olympic 470 sailor of all time, his haul of medals equalled only by Great Britain's Hannah Mills, who won Gold in the Women's today.

Ryan has fulfilled a lifelong dream that began when he sailed Flying Ants at the Toronto Amateur Sailing Club in NSW. He now finds himself as Australia's newest Olympic Champion.

"I think we will just let this one sink in," Ryan said. "I think we are pretty proud of what we put together over the last couple of years. We will take some time to relax and think about it all and tell each other how good we are."

The win further cements the reputation of the team's coach, Victor 'The Medal Maker' Kovalenko. His tally now stands at a mind-boggling seven gold, one silver and three bronze medals as an Olympic coach.

Kovalenko was glowing in his praise of Belcher and Ryan after today's Medal Race.

"They are a truly unique combination," Kovalenko said. "They are absolutely incredible sailors. They complement and understand each other. They don't need to speak too much to understand what the other is thinking.

"We set a big goal for the three of us after Rio. We weren't sure whether to campaign again, but we decided to do one more together, with that single goal being to win in Tokyo. And we did it. We reached our goal, our single goal. I am very proud of them and I am very proud to be their coach."

With 11 Olympic medals to his name, Kovalenko had this to add when asked about how this one was different: "Every medal is special, but this one has been the most difficult medal to win."

Australian Olympic Sailing Team Leader Iain Murray has overseen the entire campaign, and despite it being the most logistically complex, it is the second-best result by an Australian sailing team at an Olympics.

"It has been my great pleasure to lead this team of not only expert sailors and coaches, but also the support staff," Murray said. "The work put into our team's preparation and planning by the whole team has not only set new standards in how we operate, but it has also set new standards for all Olympic sailing teams."

"I would like to thank all of those people who put us in this position to succeed. We have been given incredible support by the AIS, the National Institute Network, the Board of Australian Sailing, our Australian Sailing Team Partners, Australian Sailing Team Patrons, and the wider network of Australian Sailing staff across the country. That support has always been on cue to deliver whatever has been necessary for the greater good of the team."

Australian Sailing would like to acknowledge and thank the Australian Olympic Committee for the work done in managing the athletes and staff of the Australian Olympic Sailing Selection at the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Regatta final standings:

49er (19 boats)

1st: Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Stuart Bithell (GBR) 2, 8, 4, 1, 12, 2, 2, (16), 3, 9, 6, 7, MR: 2 - 58 pts
2nd: Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) (12), 3, 7, 2, 10, 1, 3, 6, 2, 5, 2, 11, MR: 6 - 58 pts
3rd: Erik Heil and Thomas Ploessel (GER) 3, 13, 5, (14), 2, 3, 1, 7, 11, 2, 14, 5 MR: 4 - 70 pts
12th: Will Phillips and Sam Phillips (AUS) 7, 4, 1, 8, 11, 15, 16, (UFD), 18, 14, 8, 9 - 111 pts

49erFX (21 boats)

1st: Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze (BRA) - (15), 5, 1, 10, 7, 6, 1, 6, 10, 12, 2, 10, MR: 6 - 76 pts
2nd: Tina Lutz and Susann Beucke (GER) 5, 6, 8, 3, (13), 12, 11, 12, 3, 7, 3, 3, MR: 10 - 83 pts
3rd: Annemiek Bekkering and Annette Duetz (NED) 13, 8, 2, 1, 6, 1, 12, 5, 6, 5, 12, (16), MR: 18 - 88 pts
13th: Tess Lloyd and Jaime Ryan (AUS) 9, 11, 7, 9, 11, 10, 15, 10, (19), 11, 8, 8 - 109 pts

Finn (19 boats)

1st: Giles Scott (GBR) (9), 9, 1, 1, 1, 1, 6, 1, 1, 7, MR: 8 - 36 pts
2nd: Zsombor Berecz (HUN) 2, 2, (9), 4, 6, 7, 3, 5, 4, 4, MR: 2 - 39 pts
3rd: Joan Cardona (ESP) 3, 3, 5, 3, 2, 3, (13), 7, 5, 8, MR: 12 - 51 pts
7th: Jake Lilley (AUS) 10, 8, 4, 11, 7, 9, (15), 6, 2, 6, MR: 6 - 69 pts

Laser (35 boats)

1st: Matt Wearn (AUS) 17, (28), 2, 4, 2, 2, 1, 1, 12, 8, MR: 2 - 53 pts
2nd: Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) 15, 6, 3, (22), 13, 4, 5, 11, 7, 10, MR: 8 - 82 pts
3rd: Hermann Tomasgaard (NOR) 3, (18), 15, 2, 6, 8, 10, 5, (19), 4, MR: 14 - 85 pts

Laser Radial (44 boats)

1st: Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) 6, 5, 3, 13, 4, 4, 2, 1, 26, (DNF), MR: 14 - 78 pts
2nd: Josefin Olsson (SWE) (34), 15, 8, 4, 1, 6, 4, 9, 22, 10 MR: 2 - 81 pts
3rd: Marit Bouwmeester (NED) 21, 14, 7, 2, 3, 9, (BFD), 7, 1, 7, MR: 12 - 83 pts
14th: Mara Stransky (AUS) 12, 26, 19, 10, 19, 16, (BFD), 24, 3, 1 - 130 pts

Men's 470 (19 boats)

1st: Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (AUS) 2, 5, 1, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1, 2, (8), MR: 2 - 23 pts
2nd: Anton Dahlberg (SWE) and Fredrik Bergstrom (SWE) 1, (15), 8, 5, 6, 11, 1, 5, 3, 1, MR: 4 - 45 pts
3rd: Jordi Xammar and Nicolas Rodriguez Garcia-Paz (ESP) 10, 1, 10, 6, (14), 1, 3, 2, 5, 7, MR: 10 - 55 pts

Women's 470 (21 boats)

1st: Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre (GBR) 4, 3, 7, 1, 3, 3, 1, 3, (9), 3, MR: 10 - 38 pts
2nd: Agnieszka Skrzypulec and Jolanta Ogar (POL) 1, 1, 2, 5, (12), 1, 5, 4, (15), 15, MR: 8 - 54 pts
3rd: Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz (FRA) 3, 2, 4, 7, 1, (12), 6, 5, 10, 4, MR: 12 - 54 pts
16th: Nia Jerwood and Monique de Vries (AUS) 7, 12, 12, 8, 18, 19, 15, 13, 13, (20) - 117 pts

Nacra 17 (20 boats)

1st: Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti (ITA) 1, 3, 1, 2, (5), 1, (8), 3, 2, 2, 1, 2, MR: 12 - 35 pts
2nd: John Gimson and Anna Burnet (GBR) (7), 5, 2, 1, 1, 2, 5, (10), 1, 5, 2, 4, MR: 10 - 45 pts
3rd: Paul Kohlhoff and Alicia Stuhlemmer (GER) 5, 1, 7, 3, 3, (11), 3, 2, 8, 3, 6, 6, MR: 16 - 63 pts
5th: Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin (AUS) 2, (11), 4, 4, 7, 8, 1, 5, 4, 6, 5, 8, MR: 18 - 72 pts

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