Doublehanded dinghy sailors can relax
Published on October 20th, 2022
For the new Mixed Two Person Dinghy event at Paris 2024, for everyone that has paired up in the 470 Class for this new Olympic event, they can all exhale now. Triple Olympic medalist Mat Belcher OAM has announced his retirement from Olympic sailing.
Australia’s most successful Olympic sailor, Belcher had been considering a tilt at the new Mixed 470 class at the Paris 2024 games before calling time on his decorated career. Belcher represented Australia at three Olympic Games and returned with a haul of two Gold and one Silver medal.
“It was an incredibly difficult decision, I have been a member of this team for the past 22 years so closing that chapter was not a decision I took lightly,” said Belcher.
“I have been so lucky. I have sailed with some of the greatest athletes in the world, been a part of such a successful team and have been coached by some of the greats including Victor (Kovalenko). It has been a long and rewarding journey, but I am now 40-years old with a young family so the time is right for me to move on to the next phase of my life.”
Belcher began his career campaigning in the 470 class under Kovalenko immediately after he had coached Tom King OAM and Mark Turnbull OAM to Gold at the Sydney Olympics. Belcher was forced to wait his time to get his chance to compete at an Olympics, but when it came at London 2012 he and crew Malcolm Page OAM rode the wave of Aussie success at Weymouth to a long-awaited Gold Medal.
“Mat has achieved an unprecedented level of success in Olympic sailing,” said Australian Sailing CEO Ben Houston. “His presence both on the water as a competitor and off the water as a leader will be sorely missed. His legacy will not only be the multiple medals he has won, but also the inspiration he has provided to the next generation of Australian Olympic sailors.”
Four years after London and with a new crew in Will Ryan OAM he added a Silver at the Rio Games, before that same pairing swept all before them on their way to Gold at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“He has been such a fantastic role model for Australian sport,” said Ryan. “Mat has been fiercely competitive, but always sharing and encouraging others. He pushed the standards higher through his time in the game and showed with Victor how important the support team around you is to build success.”
Between the Olympic medals he added eight 470 class World Championships, six Australian Sailing Male Sailor of the Year awards, one World Sailing Male Sailor of the Year Award as well as being named as a finalist in the category five times. He was also selected to be Australia’s flagbearer at the closing ceremony of the Tokyo Games.
“Mathew is the greatest Australian Olympic sailor ever,” added Kovalenko. “All of us will regret that he is leaving Olympic sailing, but we are sure Mathew will remain in the sport and he will bring more success for Australia in some of his new roles.”
A father of four, Mat won’t be moving too far away from the Australian Sailing Team. He has been appointed as the new CEO of Australian Sailing’s Major Partner, Zhik. Belcher has been on the board of the sailing apparel specialists for a year and will be charged with leading the Australian-based company’s operations into the future.