August 4, 2021

By Philip O’Connor

ENOSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) -Matthew Belcher and Will Ryan of Australia stormed to victory to take Olympic gold for Australia in the men’s 470 sailing class on Wednesday, with Britain’s Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre winning the women’s competition to close the regatta.

After a thrilling battle for silver, Sweden’s Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergstrom came out on top while Jordi Xammar and Nicolas Rodriguez Garcia-Paz picked up the bronze for Spain.

Poland’s Agnieszka Skrzypulec and Jolanta Ogar took silver in the women’s category with a storming performance in the medal race to pass the French pairing of Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz, who ended up with bronze.

Belcher and Ryan performed brilliantly in the men’s opening series, winning three races and finishing in the top five in nine of the 10 preliminaries, to set themselves up for a cruise to gold in a medal race staged in blazing sunshine.

Staying out of trouble at the start, Belcher and Ryan took over at the mid-point of the race and did not look back, crossing the line first to complete a dominant victory in the competition.

“It’s a crazy position to be in going into a medal race, where all you’ve got to do is just not make any mistakes,” Belcher, who with two golds and one silver is now the most successful Australian Olympic sailor of all time, told reporters.

“We had a good start, we obviously were back at the start but halfway up the beat we realised we could be in a good position to actually do well in the race. Typical of our nature, we threw (away) a bit of the game plan and tried to win the race,” he added.

The 2016 runners-up avoided the tussle behind them as crews from Sweden, Spain, New Zealand and Britain battled it out.

The Swedes managed to keep pace with the Australians as they made their break, coming out on top in their battle with the Spaniards to finish second in the medal race as well as in the overall standings to take silver.

In the women’s race, Britain’s Mills, racing with a new partner in McIntyre, successfully defended the Olympic title she won in Rio as the Poles managed to edge the French team in the race for second in the overall standings.

The French crew lodged a protest which was dismissed, and the medal result stood.

(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Peter Rutherford, Clare Fallon and Christian Radnedge)