GB Sailing Olympic first-timers Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell fish for fun as they wait to take on the Australians in the 470
A good fisherman has to have patience and bait, so the saying goes but Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell, who have taken to fishing to ease the stresses of their Olympic sailing campaign next week, know they will need more than a pile of rag worm to reel in the gold medal.
The 470 sailors have been fishing for sea bass off Portland in their spare time but as their first ever Olympic competition draws closer, the battle with favourites Australians Malcolm Page and Mat Belcher may leave them looking green around the gills unless they are at the very peak of their form.
The Aussies are very strong, said Patience who appeared at a press conference on Thursday looking remarkably relaxed considering this will be his and Bithell’s first ever Olympic Games.
They are strong but by no means unbeatable, he said.
“The Australians have weaknesses as we do and obviously we have been working to bridge the gaps for the past three years.”
“If we perform to the best of our abilities on the day, we have the faith and belief in ourselves that it will be good enough to stand on the podium.”
If they are growing tired of being constantly measured against the formidable Aussies, they showed few signs of irritation at their first showing to the media. They had obviously prepared for the difficult questions, quoting the recent performances of Australian golfer Adam Scott in the British Open and cyclist Cadel Evans in the Tour de France to give journalists a clear perspective.
“Adam Scott was at the top of his game and lost it at the last minute and you’d have Cadel Evans as the best in the world but he didn’t win the Tour de France,” said Bithell, a Lancastrian who might struggle for bronze to Patience’s glittering gold when it comes to animated hyperbole.
“The point is that there is only one way to go from being at the top of your game and that is to come off the top of your game.
“There is no doubt the Australians are a very strong team but all we can do is focus on our own programme. If we perform well, we will be giving them a good run for their money.”
It will not be easy but their confidence was boosted by their silver medal at Sail for Gold in June on top of their selection earning silver at the ISAF World Championships in Perth last December.
Both times they were beaten by Page and Belcher, the three times 470 World Champions but this has done little to affect their confidence.
“Malcolm and Mat have had a great season and in some respects it is theirs to lose,” added Patience, an ebullient Scot.
“That won’t affect them because they are great sportsmen and although we have some great battles with them, it is by no means a two horse race. They have a huge wealth of experience over us but we were born 20 years later than us so what can we do about that?”
Patience and Bithell are off to London on Friday night to represent Britain’s sailors at the Opening Ceremony. Only they and 470 Womens’ pair Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark are able to attend due to the racing schedules which require other squad members to be on the start line from Sunday onwards.
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