London 2012 Olympics: ‘Bring it on’ says Patience as Australians vie for top spot
Scot Luke Patience and his 470 crew Stuart Bithell never doubted they would win an Olympic medal, but the young British duo turned their robust self-confidence into at least a silver yesterday.
They must wait until Thursday’s medal race, which carries double points, to see if they can win Britain’s first ever gold medal.
But the level of performance from them and the Australians, who lead the regatta, has been so high that both tied up the top two medals with two races – including the medal showdown – still to go.
Patience and Bithell, both 26, have consistently refused to play second fiddle to the Australian duo Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page, who have already won eight world 470 titles between them.
Page, 40, who won gold in China in 2008 with helm Nathan Wilmott, is the most experienced and successful sailor in the class.
The young British duo only teamed up in 2009 and have seized their first Olympic regatta together by the scruff of the neck. Their double act not only works a special magic on the water, but they start and finish each other’s sentences.
Arriving ashore, knowing that they now need to beat the Australian duo and also somehow get at least one boat between them on the finish line, Patience was emphatic: “It is theirs to lose. Bring it on.”
“Now it is a two-horse race,” they acknowledged in unison, referring to the consistent claims that they and the Australians were favourites.
Patience continued: “It feels fantastic to have a medal. It has not sunk in, and it likely won’t until later. We are happy for that. We have a day off now and then just have to try and make it a shinier colour.”
Today will be their second rest day of the regatta. They will prepare a strategy with coach Morgan Reeser and run through the what-if scenarios.
Patience said: “We will just chill out for that day. We will watch the Olympics, sit on the sofa and drink cups of tea.
“We are not concerned. The Australians are such good racers, and so consistent. But hey, do you know what, it is there for us to grab. A bit of randomness on that medal course area is just fine for us. We have trained there a lot. Bring it on.
“It is hard to defend on that course. I would sooner be attacking than defending on that course, that is for sure.”
The duo may go on to rue missing an opportunity to keep Belcher and Page behind them in the first of their two races yesterday.
Had they managed to keep them astern then the gap between them would be just two points going in to the showdown, not four, and that would have meant a straight head-to-head match race.
To compound the challenge facing Patience and Bithell, they and the Australians are so far ahead of their nearest rivals in speed that it significantly reduces the chance of getting another boat in between the two leaders. If the Australians simply race from the front then Patience and Bithell have no option other than to go with them.
The saving grace may be that the weather forecast suggests a change, finally, to very light winds. On the course, the random factor – very changeable wind directions and big changes in pressure – may well work in their favour.. The Australians have differed in their preparation from Patience and Bithell. The British pair have spent significantly more time training and racing on these waters, while Belcher and Page have continued to notch up successes on the international circuit.
Stephen Park, Olympic sailing team manager for Team GB, said: “It will be hard for them to get places between them because they are both that little bit ahead of the fleet.
“But there is nothing to lose. They will go out and fight no matter what. It will be a massive scrap.
“But it is great that they are new Olympians and have a number of Olympic Games ahead of them.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 25 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: North east