Wangi's golden Olympic sailors

FROM the Wangi Wangi RSL Amateur Sailing Club on the peaceful shores of Lake Macquarie to a tidal wave of success in Weymouth and Portland, this is the Olympic gold medal journey for Australia’s latest sporting heroes. Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen hold an unassailable lead heading into tonight’s final race of the 49-er class at the London Olympics.

Back home, the people of Wangi and the Lake Macquarie sailing community are preparing for the celebration of a lifetime.

Dobell Drive has been painted green and gold almost overnight with residents and store owners hanging balloons and signs in support of their home-grown heroes.

Even the Wangi RSL Club sign has been altered slightly to say ‘‘Nathan and Goobs’’ Gold instead of the usual XXXX kind.

Hundreds are expected to pack the club about 9.50pm to watch Outteridge and ‘Goobs’ Jensen compete in their final race.

All the pair needs to do is start the race, avoid disqualification and they will be crowned champions.

Wangi RSL Amateur Sailing Club life member Noel Butler said the pair were honest and hardworking athletes who deserved every accolade given to them.

‘‘We’re extremely proud of the boys,’’ he said.

‘‘The fact is all these juniors respect and look up to them as mentors.

‘‘Nathan and Iain both come back here and help with training sessions with the juniors, when they’ve got the time off to be at home.

‘‘Both their families live around here and they grew up here and sailed at the RSL as kids.’’

Wangi club member Karina Hansen said the pair’s success touched her heart and led to her wanting to organise the suburb’s celebrations.

‘‘I came through here last week and I didn’t like that there was no decorations so I started asking everyone if I could decorate the shops and the sailing club and everyone else has come on board since,’’ she said.

‘‘We did a letterbox drop to every home in Wangi Wangi and asked them to hang some green and gold and get down to the RSL to support the boys.’’

Wangi junior sailors Abby Hurst and Julia Tavasci have been sacrificing sleep to follow the progress of Outteridge and Jensen at the Olympics.

‘‘I think it’s pretty good and we’re pretty proud of them for putting in all the effort,’’ Julia said.

At an Olympics, where our swimmers have failed to bring home more than one gold medal, our sailors have exceeded expectations.

Gosford’s Tom Slingsby clinched Australia’s first individual gold medal of the Games on Monday and several Wangi club members are predicting a sharp increase in juniors wanting to try the sport next season.

‘‘I expect we’ll have to turn some away because we won’t have room for them,’’ Mr Butler said.

Jensen is expected to return to Wangi directly after the Olympics while Outteridge will head to the United States for more competition.

Wangi is planning a massive celebration and street parade in November when both competitors are expected to be on home soil together.

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