Euphoric 470 Boys Revel in Debut Silver
Silver for 470 Men Luke Patience & Stuart Bithell
Euphoric Luke Patience admitted any disappointment at missing out on last race gold was “very short-lived” after he and Stuart Bithell won an Olympic debut silver medal at the London 2012 sailing regatta at Weymouth and Portland today (Friday 10 August).
The pair, competing in the 470 Men two-person dinghy class, went into today’s double points’ medal race sitting second overall, four points behind Australian leaders, Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page. With every placing worth two points in the medal race, the Brits still had a shot at gold if they could finish ahead of the Aussies with one other boat between them.
Patience and Bithell have enjoyed an incredible three years since shooting to prominence in 2009 when they won an unexpected silver medal at the 470 Worlds just a few weeks after starting to train together. However, that medal proved not to be beginner’s luck with Patience and Bithell finding themselves consistently on the podium including another Worlds silver in Perth in 2011.
The pair started this regatta keen to dispel the old adage that Olympic first timers don’t win medals. With the silver medal now around their necks the boys could not be happier.
Patience, 26, said: “We came close and we are here standing with a silver. Finally we can open up a little bit and enjoy that euphoric feeling of something we have just worked so, so hard for. To have a small disappointment of not having got the gold today well it was very short-lived and it was into ‘Here we are, we’ve done it!’”
Bithell, who turns 26 later this month, said: “We’ve won a silver at our first Olympics. The actual podium was what I personally dreamt of and I can’t wait to hop up on it. That is going to be some moment and emotional no doubt.”
The Brits got off to a great start in today’s medal race and in the early stages it was advantage Patience and Bithell as they rounded the top mark in pole position, and with that vital boat in the form of Croatia between themselves and the Aussies.
But the Australians started to take control in the light winds on the first downwind leg and rounded the second mark in the lead. Despite the breeze increasing slightly heading back up to the top mark the Brits couldn’t quite get the jump on the Aussie boat and a British penalty for pumping on the final downwind run consolidated Australia’s hold on gold as they crossed in second and Britain fourth.
In a truly Olympic show of unity, both crews immediately leapt into the water to celebrate their respective achievements together while up on the Nothe spectator area both sets of Brit and Aussie parents and supporters joined forces in their celebrations.
Bithell said: “The Aussies sailed a fantastic race, we tried to attack but they are worthy champions. We’re happy with second, it’s our first Games. We had a good start in the race, just managed to get our noses in front at the first mark but they were so close behind. We actually got a little bit away from the fleet surprisingly in light airs, but we wanted those guys around to mix it up. We gave it our best shot and it was a shame they just got their noses in front on the run and it was bit easier for them from there.
Patience added: “We didn’t hear the crowd in the race but when we crossed the finish line all the celebrations it was mad, manic! It was not something we experience that often and it was so cool that everyone was here. The crowd have been amazing as always. Every athlete that has won medals at this Olympics has been saying in their interviews that it makes a difference, but it genuinely does.
“It’s just so good. It’s been three years hard work together, 15 years up there, and here we are standing on the Olympic podium. We’re young boys, there’s still plenty of time, we will be coming back. What a week, we’ve sailed the regatta of our lives, what a place, we’re in paradise.”
The boys’ silver was followed shortly after by another silver for the Brits in the Women’s 470 class. This means Britain’s sailors end London 2012 with five medals from 10 classes in total – one gold and four silvers.
The Olympic Sailing Regatta runs from Sunday 29 July – Saturday 11 August.