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Lake Macquarie sailor Will Ryan eyes off Olympic medal

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Lake Macquarie sailor Will Ryan is well on his way to secure another Olympic medal – this time in Tokyo.

After picking up a silver at the 2016 Games, at Rio de Janeiro, the 32-year-old and team-mate Mat Belcher are leading the men’s 470 class.

It comes after fellow Aussie Matt Wearn’s dominance, which reduced his Laser race into a ceremonial victory lap.

The 25-year-old only needed to complete the final leg to win his nation’s record-breaking fourth gold on the 10th day of the Tokyo Games, having built an unsurpassable 22-point overall lead on Friday.

Wearn finished second in the weekend’s contest, calmly completing formalities in the waters off Enoshima then euphorically raising an Australian flag.

The West Australian plans on keeping celebrations low key until Belcher and Ryan have also banked a medal.

The pair have two heats on Monday (2 August) before Wednesday’s climax on 4 August.

But, holding a 19-point buffer atop the 470 leaderboard after a second and a first in Sunday’s races, Belcher and Ryan are also in the box seat to make a mockery of their series finale.

“We’ll all sit down as a team and have a drink,” Wearn said.

“Mat and Will are still waiting for their medal.

“So, hopefully they can finish that off and we can all celebrate together.”

Belcher and Ryan have been a picture of consistency at this regatta; last Wednesday’s fifth-placed finish is their worst result.

The former won gold in the 470 with Malcolm Page at London 2012, while he teamed up with the Novocastrian to snare second at Rio four years later.

Ryan’s odyssey began, at age 11, at the Toronto Amateur Sailing Club, going on to compete at the 2006 Youth World Sailing Championships.

He and his equally talented sibling Jaime then represented Australia at Rio.

“The 2016 Olympics was a pretty special experience and I came into a squad that already had a vast amount of experience and had come up with winning the gold medal at the London Olympics,” Ryan told the Newcastle Weekly earlier this year.

“I was a new component to that team. 

“That whole four-year journey to that [Rio Olympics] was really a pretty intense rollercoaster the whole way along.

“For myself, we probably weren’t totally happy with our performance.

“We were just such fierce competitors that we set ourselves this ultimate bar that’s up so high.

“That’s part of the drive to continue on towards Tokyo, to make amends for those tiny little things that we know better.

“And, that’s what makes it exciting.”

While COVID-19 hampered most athletes’ preparation, the Ryans trained together on Lake Macquarie. 

“It was pretty crazy for us,” he said. 

“The press conference where our selection to the team was announced was the beginning of COVID-19 really ramping up, and most of the questions in that press conference were about COVID – and if we think if [the Olympic Games] is going to happen.

“When Jaime and I did get back here at the lake, we had a great opportunity to train and sail together, which was really cool. 

“We realised that we’re probably in a stronger position than some of the other people.

“And, we just had to make the most of it.

“It was certainly a unique situation and, for Jaime and I, we were just hugely fortunate to live in the same household — in a great location like Lake Macquarie.”

Sadly, for Belcher and Ryan, sailing authorities have cut the men’s 470 division from Paris 2024 as part of the International Olympic Committee’s push for gender equality.

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