The growing threat of the Australians to Britain’s sailing medal prospects at London 2012 has been brushed aside by 470 sailors Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell who have taken recent performances in the British Open and the Tour de France as motivating factors in their push for a gold medal.
|Luke Patience (left) and Stu Bithell (right)|
Malcolm Page and Mat Belcher, three times 470 World Champions who are widely tipped for gold while Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen in the 49ers and Tom Slingsby in the Laser are favourites to beat Britain in their respective classes.
But Patience and Bithell, competing at their first Olympic Games are not daunted by their formidable opponents, pointing to Australian golfer Adam Scott’s recent performance in the British Open and cyclist Cadel Evans in the Tour de France as being examples of how the mighty can fall.
“Adam Scott was at the top of his game and lost it at the last minute and you’d have Cadel Evans as the best in the world but he didn’t win the Tour de France,” said Bithell.
“The point is that there is only one way to go from being at the top of your game and that is to come off the top of your game.
“There is no doubt the Australians are a very strong team but all we can do is focus on our own programme. If we perform well, we will be giving them a good run for their money.”
In every Olympic Games since Sydney 2000, Britain has been the best sailing nation but Australia have been closing the gap, winning two golds – including the 470 Mens - and a silver at Beijing 2008 compared to none in Athens four years previously.
“There are so many things that have to go right to win a regatta and everyone will feel the weight of the pressure around them – no one is exempt.”
“Malcolm and Mat have had a great season and in some respects it is theirs to lose,” added Patience.
“That won’t affect them because they are great sportsmen and although we have some great battles with them, it is by no means a two horse race. They have a huge wealth of experience over us but we were born 20 years later than us so what can we do about that?”
“The Australians have weaknesses as we do and obviously we have been working to bridge the gaps for the past three years. We feel that if we perform to the best of our abilities on the day, we have the faith and belief in ourselves that that will be good enough to stand on the podium.”
Patience and Bithell do not start racing until next week so will represent Britain’s sailing squad at the London 2012 Opening Ceremony on Friday night along the 470 Women’s team Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark. All other members of Team GB’s sailing squad will watch proceedings on a big screen from Weymouth beach.