Australia’s most celebrated sailing duo, Mat Belcher and Will Ryan, have confirmed their place in the history books after clinching gold in a poignant, emotion-fuelled race in the men’s 470 at Enoshima.
The five-time World Champions entered Wednesday’s medal race with an almost unbeatable 20-point lead, and only needed to avoid any false start penalties to be crowned Olympic Champions. But after taking no risks at the start line, the champions worked through the field and won the medal race in commanding fashion.
“It’s unbelievable to be here, to have done this. I remember thinking as a kid that Olympic gold just seemed unreachable, and yet here we are,” 32-year-old Ryan said
The win makes Belcher the most successful Australian sailor of all-time – he won gold in London with Malcolm Page, before teaming up with Ryan to claim the silver at Rio. There were jubilant scenes after the race.
‘It’s a special achievement, and it’s something I couldn’t have done without the support of my coaching team, but also my family. It’s been a team effort, and I’m thinking of all those people today,’ the 38-year-old said.
“It’s going to take some time to soak this feeling up. It’s incredible.”
Both sailors have described today’s win as their “last dance,” being forced to call time on their incredible partnership. From Paris 2024 and onwards, the 470 class will be a mixed crew, meaning the duo couldn’t sail on together even if they wanted to. It was a fitting end for the most successful 470 crew in history.
“It’s probably a good time to end my Olympic sailing career,” Belcher said. “But I haven’t made any firm decisions yet. I just want to thank this guy that I’ve worked with for so long – there’s no one I’d rather have done this with.”
The win also cements the reputation of the team’s coach Victor ‘The Medal Maker’ Kovalenko. The Sport Australia Hall of Famer now has a staggering tally of seven gold medals as a coach.
“We wanted this for Victor, we wanted this for our families,” Ryan said. “There’s so much that goes in behind the scenes, and this win is for every single person that’s helped us along our journey.”
The Australians took the gold by 22 points over Sweden, who were 10 points clear of Spain with bronze.
The 470 gold medal for Australia on the final day of the Tokyo 2020 regatta follows the gold to Matt Wearn in the Laser class earlier in the Games.