IF TOKYO 2020 is anything like Rio and London then the Australian sailing team is likely to be one of our heavy lifters when it comes to the medal tally.
And two of the team’s brightest rising stars, Ashley Stoddart (Laser Radial) and Jake Lilley (Finn), say Australia is well placed to go better in 2020 than it has in the past two campaigns, with plenty of young guns hungry for ultimate success after promising Olympic debuts in Brazil.
For the majority of our sailors, their first tentative step on the way to Tokyo will be this week’s World Cup Final at St Kilda Beach, which for the elite racers starts on Tuesday.
EYE ON PRIZE: BURTON, STIPANOVIC TO GO HEAD-TO-HEAD
Stoddart, ninth at this past Olympics, and Lilley, eighth at the Games, will be there, along with three of Australia’s medal-winning boats from Rio.
Along with their more experienced compatriots, a host of sailing’s up and comers will also compete in Melbourne.
And after securing three golds and a silver in London and one gold and three silvers in Rio, Lilley insists it will be some of the bright young talents at St Kilda this week who could be a part of an even better showing in Tokyo.
“Personally I think we’re only going to get better,” Lilley said.
“We took a pretty young team to Brazil with quite a few debutants. With the team as a whole, the way it’s looking, I can only see us improving.”
Stoddart has spent most of her time post-Rio off the water - even running a half marathon - and will race for the first time since the Olympics this week.
Even though she had a strong showing in Brazil, the 23-year-old said she always knew Tokyo would be her best chance to medal.
“You never know what might happen in the next four years, I can’t guarantee I’ll be in Tokyo, but realistically we looked at Rio as a great experience and getting the most out of it,” Stoddart said.
“But there’s no other thought in my mind than I want a medal in Tokyo.”
Lilley has spent time post Rio on a different boat, sailing in Bermuda with America’s Cup team Artemis Racing.
But after being in medal contention in August, the 23-year-old is hellbent on being in Tokyo to rectify some costly mistakes he said ruled him out of the running.
“I never think about qualification,” Lilley said.
“I didn’t the last time. I just think about trying to be the best in the world and if you can do that then you qualify and then win.”
DUMMIES GUIDE TO THE SAILING WORLD CUP FINAL
There are 12 elite titles up for grabs in Melbourne this week, but knowing which class is which can get a little bit tricky.
Rio Olympics silver medallist LISA DARMANIN, who races with her cousin Jason Waterhouse in the Nacra 17 class, gives us the low down on what to look out for at St Kilda Beach.
“A men’s skiff, it has three sails and is a two-person boat.”
“Female version of the 49er. Two girls on a skiff, who hang off a wire on the side of the boat.”
Nacra 17 (mixed)
Aussie Rio stars: Lisa Darmanin and Jason Waterhouse (silver)
“A catamaran, with three sails and is the fastest Olympic class. It’s the only mixed-gender boat.”
RSX (men) & RSX (women)
“The Olympic windsurfer event, one person obviously.”
Aussie Rio star: Tom Burton (gold)
“One-person dinghy. With one sail, it’s the slowest boat, but the racing is more intense.”
Laser Radial (women)
“Female Laser version, with slightly smaller sail. Got to have really strong legs and core because they have to hike the boat down, they don’t have the wire to hang off for leverage.”
“For the heavier guys, the 90-100kg blokes. It’s the big version of laser, one sail, but it’s a bit more technical with equipment.”
470 (men) & 470 (women)
Aussie Rio stars: Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan (silver)
“Two-person dinghy. Male and female classes are identical. They’ve got three sails. They’re a little slower than the skiffs, but the racing is a bit more tactical. They’ve got one person hiking like the Laser and one person trapezing off a wire.”
Formula Kites (men and women)
“Not an Olympic event yet, but they are pushing. It’s basically the racing version of kite surfing.”