Australia is edging towards its best ever Olympic performance, with a gold medal in the men’s 470 class sailing at Tokyo 2020 taking the nation’s tally to 15 – just two short of the 17 golds collected at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Mathew Belcher and William Ryan had established an unassailable lead at Enoshima Yacht Harbour on Tuesday, and just needed to attempt the medal race without disqualification or penalty to secure the gold medal. But not only did the pair complete the final race on Wednesday afternoon, they won it – being crowned 470 class Olympic champions with a dominant final performance. Sweden took the silver medal, with Spain in third.
The win sees Belcher return to the top step of the sailing podium nine years after he won gold at London 2012 with Malcolm Page. The 38-year-old was joined by new teammate Ryan in 2016, but the pair had to settle for silver after the Croatians out-performed them in Rio.
Following a remarkably consistent series of performances in Tokyo – the pair won line honours in three races and only finished outside the top five in the penultimate race – Belcher and Ryan were crowned Olympic champions. Belcher is now the most successful Australian sailor in history, with two Olympic golds and one silver adding to 10 world championship victories.
The gold medal is Australia’s second triumph at the sailing, after Matt Wearn won the Laser class earlier in the week. The sport has been a consistent contributor to the medal tally for Australia in recent Games – the nation won two golds and one silver on the water in 2008, three golds and one silver in 2012 and one gold and three silvers in 2016.
Remarkably, 14 of Australia’s 15 gold medals at Tokyo 2020 so far have come in or on the water, with sailing success joined by gold medals in swimming, rowing and canoe slalom. The nation’s only land-based Olympic gold came in BMX freestyle, as Queenslander Logan Martin won the men’s competition as the sport made its Olympic debut.