Tom Slingsby has won gold in the Laser class on a historic day for Australian sailing at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Slingsby’s gold was Australia’s first in the Laser class and followed a dominant display from the five-time World Champion throughout the regatta.
Capping off an amazing day Australia’s 49er crew of Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen will take an unassailable 28 point lead into Wednesday’s medal race following a impressive day on the water. The pair now just needs to complete the final race to claim the gold.
The 470 men’s fleet was back in action on Monday with Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page holding onto their lead ahead of Great Britain’s Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell. The Australians are one point clear heading into races nine and 10.
Tom Slingsby went into the Laser medal with a 14 point lead over Cyprus’s Pavlos Kontides, with the Australia having to ensure he finished within six boats of Kontides to claim the gold.
Slingsby put the pressure on Kontides early, shadowing his every move and once he got ahead made the race difficult for the Cypriot.
The pair crossed the line ninth and 10th but that didn’t matter, Slingsby had the gold medal.
“It’s an amazing feeling, words really can’t describe it,” said Slingsby. “I’ve worked hard for so long now, last time I put in so much hard work and came away with nothing. This time I put in so much more work and finally I’m going home and knowing that all the sacrifice over the years wasn’t for nothing this time, I’ve got a gold medal.
“If I didn’t do well at these Olympics I would definitely hang up the shoes,” he said. “Last time I’d won everything, I’d won World Championships, World Cups, European Championships, everything going into China and so the Olympics was the only thing left. Coming out of that knowing that there was a four year wait for redemption was pretty daunting. I’m glad I stuck with it and had another crack.”
Slingsby said that having his family and friends present made the victory even sweeter.
“It means so much more having your friends and family, you’d feel empty if you came here and did well but had nobody to share it with,” said Slingsby. “Tonight at the Cove we can all go there and celebrate and it’s the best feeling knowing that they’re here to celebrate with me.”
The 27-year-old said that he went into the medal race with a plan in mind having watched the first finals unfold on Sunday.
“I was thinking that I might just go and sail my own race but I went out to the Nothe yesterday and watched the Finns and the Stars and I saw how easily you can lose a lead,” said Slingsby. “I saw the gold medal slip through a couple of couple of guys fingers yesterday, so I just said to myself that I’m not going to let that happen to me. I wasn’t going to give him in an inch, if he could have lost silver I might have been a bit easier on him.”
Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen started the day 20 points clear of New Zealand’s Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, with the Australians keen to extend their lead as much as possible before Wednesday’s medal race.
Outteridge and Jensen did better than just extend their lead, they now just need to contest the medal race to claim the gold medal.
The Australian pair won the first race before crossing the line third in race two, giving them an unassailable 28 point lead over the Kiwis.
“Today was awesome, to see Tom win his gold medal and then for him to say to us, right boys it’s your turn, that was massive for us,” said Outteridge. “All we had to do today was keep it simple and the first race ended up going really nicely for us and the second race wasn’t that stressful and we just executed what we were doing all week.”
“We’ve seen the medal races over the last couple of days and what can happen, this morning when we woke up the plan was to stitch it up today so that there was nothing left to worry about. We never thought we’d ever get to this point of being so far in front but it’s amazing that we did it,” he said.
While Outteridge has been to the Olympic Games before, finishing fifth in Beijing, London 2012 is Jensen’s first, and he’s bringing home a gold medal.
“It’s unreal, I was saying before that it’s the perfect outcome to have us and the Kiwis in gold and silver and wrap it up for the medal race,” said Jensen. “They’re some of our closest friends and we’ve been training partners for a long time so this is about as good as it gets.”
Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page continue to lead the 470 men’s class heading into the final two fleet races. Belcher and Page went into the day with a four point lead over Great Britain’s Luke Paitence and Stuart Bithell.
In a hard fought two races the Australian pair finished third and fifth, to go into the penultimate day of racing one point ahead of the British crew.
“We hung in there today,” said Belcher. “The British sailed a bit away from us in the first race and we finished third. In race two the breeze just came in and we tried to stay close to them and we got them by one place.”
The 470 men’s class will head to Portland Harbour on Tuesday for the two final fleet races to decide the makeup of the medal race. Belcher and Page will be looking to extend their advantage over the fleet before the decider.
“It’ll be on again tomorrow, I’m sure,” said Page. “We’re in the harbour tomorrow so it may be a little bit flukey with the affect of the land, the flatter water, it’ll be a different game again. but we’ll be ready for the battle.”
Australia’s Women’s Match Racing crew will contest the quarterfinals on Tuesday, with the 470 men and women fleets also in action.