Lake Macquarie yachtsmen celebrate Olympic gold

Wangi Wangi duo Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen were set to celebrate in style on Wednesday after accepting the first Olympic gold medals awarded to any sailors from Newcastle or Lake Macquarie.

Outteridge and Jensen won the 49er skiff regatta  at the London Olympics, wrapping up the result early after clinching  an unassailable lead in the penultimate round.

A large and vocal throng of family and friends attended the presentation ceremony, including parents Tony and Jasmine Outteridge and Keith and Margaret Jensen.

The Aussie brigade were planning a post-race party at the Weymouth watering hole they have adopted as an unofficial home base, the Cove Inn.

"I think we'll have a celebratory drink,'' Mrs Jensen said.

Outterridge and Jensen planned to stay in Weymouth for one more day, to support teammates Malcolm Page and Mathew Belcher, who are poised to win the 470 class on Thursday.

Free souvenir poster and more reports from The Herald's Robert Dillon, in Weymouth, in tomorrow's Herald.

They will then head to the athletes' village in London to belatedly soak up the Olympic atmosphere.

Wangi Wangi sailors win gold medal

NATHAN Outteridge and Iain Jensen etched their names into sailing folklore at Weymouth on Wednesday when they became the first Lake Macquarie yachtsmen to win an Olympic gold medal.

The childhood mates from Wangi Wangi, who learned their craft as toddlers, headed into the 16th and final race of the 49er class regatta without a worry in the world, having already compiled an unassailable lead that meant their last day on the water was a celebratory cruise.

They crowned a triumphant campaign by finishing fourth as a strong contingent of shore-based Australian supporters, including friends and family, toasted their success from the nearest vantage point, as did others back home at the Wangi RSL.

Lake Macquarie’s tranquil waters have spawned numerous national and world champions over the decades, but until Wednesday, nobody who had claimed the ultimate prize at an Olympic Games.

‘‘It’s huge,’’ the 26-year-old Outteridge said of his landmark achievement before the race started.

‘‘We’ve watched Chris Nicholson sailing the 49ers as we were growing up on Lake Macquarie. He’s won worlds, but he never got to win an Olympic medal.

‘‘I got an email from him the other day saying: ‘Congrats. You guys worked hard for it and it’s great for our area.’

‘‘We’re looking forward to going home and spending time with everyone who has supported us around Lake Macquarie and making sure that they feel like they’re part of it, because where we’re from is a huge sailing area.

‘‘It’s great to finally bring a gold medal home.’’

Jensen, 24, radiated the same understated glow of pride in their achievement.

‘‘There’s not too many people who get to go to the Games, let alone win an Olympic gold medal,’’ Jensen said.

‘‘To be privileged enough to do both those things is a big honour.’’

Outteridge said before the race that he felt an obligation not to obstruct the crews battling for the bronze medal. The silver had already been secured by New Zealand.

But aware of the supporters gathered back at his home-town watering hole, he vowed to put on a worthy show.

‘‘It’s great for us that we’ve secured the gold medal and today doesn’t make a huge difference, but today is the race that is going to be shown all around Australia,’’ Outteridge said.

"We want to feel like people watching it feel like we did deserve the gold medal, and we’re not just cruising around in the back of the fleet.’’

Wednesday’s victory and medal presentation were especially sweet for Outteridge, as it represented redemption.

Four years ago at the Beijing Olympics, he was devastated when the skiff he was crewing with Ben Austin capsized just a few hundred metres from the finish line.

At that point they were leading. The gold medal was within sight.

Instead they finished unplaced, so not surprisingly Outteridge was delighted to have avoided a similar white-knuckle finale at Weymouth.

‘‘It’s been a long journey,’’ he said.

‘‘As I said the other day, it’s just a massive relief that we’ve done the job that we’ve worked so hard to do ... we’re pretty happy we’re not in that position [again].’’

‘‘If they do, it’s a huge moment for our sport.’’

Outteridge said he and Jensen planned to go back-to-back in Rio de Janeiro.

‘‘We’re starting to plan for that now,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re probably going to take a fair bit of time off, because it’s so hard to do a full four-year campaign, but we’ll be on track for that in a year or two.’’

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