Hours after Malcolm Page had won the 2008 Olympic gold medal in the Men’s 470 discipline, he and Mathew Belcher discussed teaming up for a 2012 Olympic campaign. During the following year, the team only managed to fit 80 days of sailing around their demanding personal lives. Mat finished his business degree, Malcolm worked hard, they both got married. But before they knew it they were sitting down with their coach, Victor Kovalenko. Also known the “Medal Maker”, Kovalenko has coached his teams to eight Olympic medals and fifteen 470 World Championship wins, including Belcher and Page’s three 470 World Championship titles.
Page is the veteran in the 470 Class. Throughout his early 16-foot skiff, 505 and 18-foot skiff sailing career, he helmed. Committing to an Olympic dream meant zeroing in on the 470, taking advantage of his height and build and moving to the bow of the boat. “It took a couple of years to become a decent crew and another couple of years to become a good crew,” reflects Page. Page and his former skipper, Nathan Wilmot, cut their teeth in the 470 Class together for over a decade. Together they won three 470 World Championships and one ISAF World Sailing Games, two silver medals and one bronze medal at the 470 World Championships, two 470 European Championships, nine Australian 470 National Championships, one Australian Yachtsman of the Year, three Australian Sports Institute Team of the Year and numerous other regional, national and world titles.
Mathew Belcher won the 420 World Championship in 2000. Australia’s promising young athlete was given the distinction of carrying the Olympic flag during the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics. At that point, he decided to become an Olympian. Coach Victor Kovalenko invited him onto the Australian 470 sailing squad where he became the tuning partner for Wilmot and Page. As a helmsman, Belcher rose to the #1 ISAF ranking in 2007. It was a battle of character, personality and intellect and Belcher and his partner put the Australian veterans to the test, but came up short when Wilmot and Page won the 2007 470 World Championship and the right to represent Australia at the 2007 Olympic Test event. Wilmot and Page then went on to win the Olympic Test Event and clearly demonstrated their medal potential. Dejected, Belcher took time off from sailing and went to university full-time. As a video boat driver at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, he had an upfront view of his compatriots win both the Women’s and the Men’s 470 Olympic gold medals. After almost a decade in the pursuit of the Olympic dream, Belcher in London 2012 will fulfill that dream.
Belcher and Page’s Olympic 470 program got off to a slow start while they focused on the home front, working, finishing university and getting married. In December 2008 they began competing first nationally, then overseas in the USA and Europe. Their performance in ISAF Grade 1, Grade 2, World and National 470 competitions quickly established them as a world-class crew on the Olympic circuit. During their partnership to date, Belcher and Page never finished outside seventh in a single regatta over the last four years of competition. They have held world number #1 in the ISAF ranking for over two years and have won the last three 470 World Championships (10,11,12) as well as sewing up three consecutive ISAF World Cup titles with one regatta to spare. In 2010, they were the only double handled team to be nominated for the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year.
Well liked and respected within their wider community, they are great ambassadors for the sport and truly love what they do, representing their country at the highest level. We might just see the Australian flag raised again at the London 2012 Olympic games as they come into the games as firm favourities.
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