Patience and Bithell in Olympic gold hunt

Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell remain Great Britain’s best shot for a second sailing gold in Weymouth as they enter the penultimate day of racing just one point behind favourites Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page.

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The 470 pairing won their second race of the regatta before taking a sixth on Monday as they and the Australians pushed further ahead of the fleet, with Italy 29 points behind the Brits in third.

With two races left before the medal race, Patience and Bithell have not finished below sixth in what has been a remarkably consistent regatta for the pair who claimed world championship silver in 2009 and 2011.

Patience is revelling in his Olympic debut and is delighted with the position he and Bithell find themselves in with two days to go.

“The Aussies were the favourites before the regatta and they still are,” said Patience. “But we take confidence from where we are now.

“We’re just so happy – it’s been a great series so far in our first Olympics and there a lot of hype around it.

“And we’re having such a good time, it’s so much fun and we were whooping going upwind as we were catching the waves – we are having an absolute ball.”

The pair are under pressure to win gold after some disappointing results in the Laser and Laser radial classes, but Bithell says they have no reason to feel burdened by expectation.

“You have got to remember it’s just a game,” said Bithell. “It’s not a war in Afghanistan or anything serious like that – it’s just sport, it’s good fun.

“We’re so grateful for the opportunity to come and race and be supported and funded and have the backing of friends and family, the nation – what’s so bad about that, where’s the pressure there.”

The British 49er crew of Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes can still win a bronze but currently sit in fifth with just the medal race remaining.

Morrison and Rhodes are six points behind the Danish crew, who are third after 15 races, but there are only six points separating the British team and Portugal in eighth.

And, while it has been a disappointing week for the 2007 world champions, Morrison knows they still have a chance to finish on the podium.

“We were very frustrated but we have a fantastic chance to win a bronze medal,” said Morrison.

“It didn’t go our way to begin with but we got a seventh in the last one so we caught up a few and kept fighting which is what we have to do on Wednesday.

“We have a great chance to win a medal and hopefully we can make the most of it. It was a hard day but we still have a good opportunity to do something really special.”

Paul Goodison was unable to defend the gold he won in Beijing in the Laser after an injury in race two of the 11-race regatta, but he finished on a high with third in the medal race.

A serious back problem has prevented Goodison competing flat out but he does not seem ready to say goodbye to the Olympics in such disappointing fashion.

“I wanted to perform for all the people who have helped me get through this week to get me in the medal race,” said Goodison.

“The people who have patched me back together each day and the people who have supported me over the last four years.

“It was more a case of going out and fighting just to finish it off – even though we weren’t going to win medals I wanted to put on a good performance.

“With regards to Rio, it’s nice and sunny there and they could have lighter winds.

“I love the Olympics – it’s what my life has been about for the last 12 years and I don’t know what boat it’s going to be in or how soon I will start my campaign for that.

“But it’s always special to do the Olympics and so, so special to do well at the Olympics so I think I’ll go away and get fixed then start making some decisions nearer to Christmas.

“This week has been a disaster – the first race I went out there quite shy as I just didn’t want to mess it up.

“Then the second race I went out there all guns blazing to try to win the race and pushed so, so hard but I was injured and I came in that day and wanted the physio to say it would be fine the next day.

“Unfortunately that wasn’t the answer but after sailing the second day I came in and was in tears – it dawned on me then that it wasn’t going to be a quick fix.”

Goodison had a difficult week but racing in front of the spectators watching from the Nothe course proved inspirational.

“I was down at the Nothe the day before the medal race and the atmosphere was absolutely amazing, very special,” he said.

“And then to sail out there and sail fast – to see the number of Union flags and to hear people screaming is something I’ve never experienced before and was something that was really amazing.

“It fires you on when you’re hurting – you go up there and you want to be in front to get the crowd behind you and screaming for you.

“My mum and dad and my brother, as well as quite a lot of my family, were up there so you don’t want them to see you at the back – you want them to see you at the front so it was extra special.”

Alison Young finished fifth in the Laser Radial after a fourth in the medal race and was delighted to compete at her first Olympics after only being selected in May.

“It’s definitely given me a taste for the future,” said Young. “I’ll be carrying on to Rio and there have been lots of lessons learned from this that we can work on to get a medal.

“I was close to a medal but there were too many accumulated mistakes through the week.

“Having medalled at the Sail for Gold regatta I didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t medal again so that was the aim so I’m disappointed with fifth but I have learned lots for the future.

“It was a great experience to race on the Nothe in the medal race and I was up there watching Ben Ainslie, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson.

“It was amazing seeing the support on there – it was fantastic and gives you a boost to go out there and try your best.”

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