Australia's 2012 Olympic hopes: sailing

Sailing has proved a notoriously unpredictable event at Olympic Games. Nobody knows that better than Tom Slingsby, the five-time laser class world champion from the NSW Central Coast, who arrived in Beijing as the No.1 ranked sailor and world champion and left with nothing after finishing a humbling 22nd in the regatta. Slingsby was devastated and went to ground for a while, taking a break from laser and concentrating on yachting. But the 27-year-old soon returned to dominance and was named world sailor of the year in 2010. This year he took out the test event at Weymouth, as well as the sailing world championships in Perth, the laser world championships in Germany and two world cup events. Once again he is the sailor to beat.

A CLASS ABOVE

Australia has won four gold medals in the 470, an Olympic class since 1976 that uses a double-handed dinghy. Until Sydney, the Spanish and the Americans fought it out for gold in the 470 but Ukrainian supercoach Victor Kovalenko helped Australians Jenny Armstrong and Belinda Stowell and Tom King and Mark Turnbull break the drought in 2000. In the past nine years an Australian men's pairing has won the world championships six times. Our latest power pairing is three-time world champions Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page.

GAME, SET, MATCH RACE

Women's match racing is a new Olympic discipline, replacing the Yngling class. Its inclusion in the Olympic program swelled the world match racing rankings list by 24 per cent, helped along by a concerted effort by the umbrella association to attract sailors with strong racing backgrounds, including past Olympians in other events. America won the world championships in Perth, beating Great Britain's Olympic favourites Lucy Macgregor, Annie Lush and Kate Macgregor. But don't discount the Australians. Our trio of Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty took out first place at the recent sail for gold regatta on the Olympic course.

PREDICTION

Three gold, one silver, one bronze. Gold to Tom Slingsby in the laser radial, Malcolm Page and Mathew Belcher in the 470, and Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen in the 49ers. A silver to match racing debutants Olivia Price, Nina Curtis and Lucinda Whitty and a bronze to women's 470 pairing Elise Rechichi and Belinda Stowell.

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