For almost two years, Australian sailor Matt Wearn has anxiously awaited this moment. One of the first Australians to be selected for Tokyo 2020, in September 2019, the Perth local has been preparing for the medal race in his laser class category ever since. The Covid-induced postponement only further delayed Wearn’s Olympic debut.
When the moment finally came on Sunday, it was almost anticlimactic. Such was Wearn’s dominance in the 10 qualifying races during the week that the Australian held an insurmountable lead heading into the 11th and final encounter. Wearn only needed to start and finish the race, which he did in mid-strength winds on the Enoshima Yacht Harbour. The former world championship silver medallist upgraded to gold at Tokyo 2020 – the fourth Australia has won on Sunday, a record for the country in a single day.
In a field of 35 sailors, Wearn has been in a class of his own. Following two poor results in the opening races, the 25-year-old steadied himself to finish within the top four in the next four consecutive races. Line honours in race seven and eight extended Wearn’s lead, before composed finishes in the last two qualifying outings guaranteed the gold medal.
By placing first, Wearn – a former Sailing Australia male sailor of the year – continues his nation’s dominance in the laser class. Australian Tom Slingsby won gold at London 2012, before compatriot Tom Burton claimed the win at Rio 2016.
Speaking to Guardian Australia after the Olympics had been postponed last year, Wearn had underscored the positives of an additional 12 months’ preparations. “The delay is a perfect opportunity to tick off a few more one-percenters that we might not have been able to work on prior to July,” he had said at the time. “Now that we have more time we will keep thinking of things we can work on – in a way, that is a great upside.”
Over the past week, Wearn put his additional training to good use in tricky conditions at Enoshima. Given the West Australian’s poor start to the competition, his charge to the gold medal from the third race onwards was all the more impressive. Wearn’s poise and technical excellence were unmatched across a strong field.
Australia’s medal hopes at the Olympic sailing continue in the week ahead. In the 470 class, five-time world champions Mathew Belcher and William Ryan with more than half of the races completed. Subject to winds, their medal race is scheduled for Wednesday.