Belcher in 'last dance' for sailing gold

Murray WenzelAAP
Australian sailors Mat Belcher (l) and Will Ryan are hoping to go one better than Rio and win gold.
Camera IconAustralian sailors Mat Belcher (l) and Will Ryan are hoping to go one better than Rio and win gold. Credit: AP

Mat Belcher can cement his place in Australian Olympic history in what he's labelling his "last dance" with partner Will Ryan as the country's sailors target another swag of medals in Japan.

The pair won silver in Rio five years ago and, weeks after securing an eighth 470 world title at Japan's Inoshima in September 2019, he and Ryan were Australia's first official selections for the Tokyo Games.

World domination hasn't been possible since then thanks to COVID-19 keeping the contingent in Australia.

But, after winning gold with Malcolm Page at London 2012, the 38-year-old will still return to the same venue as a warm favourite to become the first Australian sailor to win three medals at successive Games.

"This will be our last campaign together, with the change of 470 (to a mixed event at the Paris 2024 Games)," Belcher said.

"It's nice to be able to do a last dance together and to put our skills on the line and be in this pressure environment, which is why we do it.

"The fun of racing at this level, really close racing, and there's no better person to do it with than with Will.

"We're just going to enjoy these days and hopefully our experience and our skills will come to the forefront."

Belcher is not alone in his medal pursuit, with top-ranked Laser sailor Matt Wearn and mixed-crew Nacra pair Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin - second in Rio - both strong chances to build on the country's remarkable Olympic record.

Seven of 11 Australian sailors left Rio with medals to build on a haul that reads eight gold, six silver and one bronze across the last four Games.

Big swells could hit the picturesque venue, about 50km south of Tokyo, but the Australian contingent are banking on their vast experience when competition begins on Sunday.

"If it gets windy it gets a little bit more like what we're used to growing up in Australia, but through the years of experience we just know you've got to take what you can," Ryan said.

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