Un­touch­able pair has eyes only for gold

The Dominion Post - - Olympic Games Countdown -

There are no cer­tain­ties in sail­ing be­cause there are so many vari­ables. Or so the the­ory goes.

Burl­ing and Tuke have done their best to blow that ra­tio­nale out of the wa­ter with an un­prece­dented run of suc­cess in this tricky Olympic class that re­quires the bal­anc­ing skills of a high-wire artist to go with all the ba­sics of sail­ing.

Yes, they’ve been beaten in ac­tual races. But in a re­gatta for­mat over a se­ries of races as the Olympics will be, their con­sis­tency has proven un­touch­able. They’ve strung to­gether 26 con­sec­u­tive in­ter­na­tional ti­tles, in­clud­ing four worlds, in an un­beaten run since claim­ing sil­ver at the last Olympics.

The mo­ment they were handed their medals at Lon­don 2012, the pair looked at them and made a com­mit­ment to turn them into gold in four years time.

That time has now rolled around and they are the hottest favourites of any sailors lin­ing up in any of the 10 classes at Rio. But they’re more than that – they find them­selves on the lists of gold medal prospects in any of the Olympics sports pro­duced by every ma­jor news or­gan­i­sa­tion around the world.

They aren’t daunted by this, they are mo­ti­vated by it. As nat­u­rally gifted as they are, un­der the watch­ful eye of coach Hamish Will­cox they have looked at every tiny av­enue in their boat and skills to squeeze the max­i­mum out of this cam­paign.

It’s their abil­ity to dom­i­nate in a wide va­ri­ety of con­di­tions that has set them apart and Rio could throw plenty of vari­ances with five dif­fer­ent cour­ses be­ing used.

Their in­sa­tiable thirst for im­prove­ment is a source of pride: ‘‘It has been about keep­ing on learn­ing and keep­ing on push­ing our­selves and keep push­ing for­ward to be able to win come any con­di­tions in Rio,’’ Burl­ing said.

‘‘We have been work­ing su­per hard to keep that edge over the rest of the fleet and they are all work­ing su­per hard to try and catch us. We’re re­ally look­ing for­ward to that chal­lenge.’’

They are rev­el­ling in the pres­sure of ex­pec­ta­tion rather than hid­ing from it, say­ing they’d rather be in their po­si­tion than their ri­vals.

Yacht­ing New Zealand’s high per­for­mance di­rec­tor Jez Fan­stone mar­vels at their abil­ity to deal with that and doesn’t see it sink­ing un­der the pres­sure of the Games.

‘‘I’m confident that they can keep their heads and do what they need to,’’ Fan­stone said of the cur­rent world sailors of the year.

He also be­lieves they have some­thing spe­cial in long-term coach Hamish Will­cox.

‘‘They com­ple­ment each other well and Hamish is able to keep them fo­cussed on their 49er with­out all the other dis­trac­tions and keep them go­ing for­ward and re­laxed and look­ing for­ward to go­ing sail­ing.

‘‘It is long hours on the wa­ter, long hours in the gym, long hours prepa­ra­tion and time away. The goal now is to bring that all to­gether to where you are just look­ing for­ward to go­ing rac­ing in Rio on the first day of the re­gatta.’’


New Zealand 49er stars Peter Burl­ing and Blair Tuke are the heav­i­est of favourites in the 10 yacht­ing classes at the Rio Olympics.

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