Tokyo Olympics: Matt Wearn credits Rio champ Tom Burton for impending sailing gold medal

Melissa WoodsAAP
Laser class sailor Matt Wearn is a gold medal winner in waiting as he prepares for the final race,
Camera IconLaser class sailor Matt Wearn is a gold medal winner in waiting as he prepares for the final race, Credit: EPA

Matt Wearn has credited his fierce battle with Rio Olympic sailing champion Tom Burton to win Australian selection for helping his remarkable gold medal charge in the Laser class in Tokyo.

The 25-year-old has an unassailable lead before the final race on Sunday and must simply complete the Enoshima course without disqualification to secure a gold medal in his Olympic debut.

Australia has had a stranglehold on the event since London 2012, where Tom Slingsby clinched gold followed by Burton in Rio five years ago.

Wearn edged Burton to take Australia’s sole place in the class with the pair jostling for the world No.1 ranking at the time of selection in September 2019.

As the reigning Olympic champion, Burton could rightly feel miffed.

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However consistently strong results, including the World Cup Series at the Tokyo venue, saw Wearn narrowly in front.

Wearn said his competition with Burton had pushed him to be a better sailor.

“Obviously Tom Burton, who won gold in Rio, he’s been a massive part of this journey,” the West Australian told the Seven Network.

“To fight with him to get a position to even come here was probably the edge in the end, to have that fierce competition.”

Wearn banked a 12th and eighth place in the ninth and 10th races late on Friday which extended his lead over his nearest rival Norwegian Hermann Tomasgaard to 22 net points.

With only 20 points on offer in the double-point 10-man medal race, it means he can’t be caught.

Wearn said he would try to enjoy his “victory lap” on Sunday.

“I’ve always had in my mind that if I was going to win a gold this is the way I wanted to do it - I didn’t want to leave it to chance in the medal race because anything can happen,” he said.

“To seal it and then to be able to go into the medal race and enjoy the experience, I couldn’t be happier.”

Wearn will have some nerves on Sunday, but that will be for his Belgian fiancee Emma Plasschaert, who is competing in the Laser Radial medal race.

World No.1-ranked Plasschaert sits fifth.

“We haven’t been able to see each other much over the past six months, or even whilst we’ve been here with the COVID measures,” Wearn said.

“But knowing that she’s been here for the whole time has been really special.”

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