Family affair: Parents on hand to help celebrate sailing gold

FOUR years ago they wept in utter devastation, but on Wednesday Tony and Jasmine Outteridge shed tears of joy after their son Nathan celebrated the ultimate redemption at the London Olympics.

Nathan and his childhood mate Iain Jensen, who grew up together at Wangi Wangi, collected the first gold medals by any Newcastle or Lake Macquarie sailors after winning the 49er skiff regatta at Weymouth on Wednesday.

And their success was a family affair.

The Outteridges were joined at the presentation ceremony by Jensen’s parents, Keith and Margaret, and all four were happy to admit to welling up when the enormity of the occasion sunk in.

For the Outteridges, in particular, it has been a long and rocky ride.

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At the Beijing Games in 2008 they were waiting in anticipation at the finish line when Nathan and his then partner Ben Austin capsized, just a few hundred metres from the gold medal.

They finished unplaced, leaving Mrs Outteridge crying what she described as ‘‘the other kind of tears’’.

‘‘Sitting in the rain, freezing cold, blowing a gale,’’ Mr Outteridge recalled.

‘‘Watching everybody out there, and then just getting so close and then having the big capsize. It was pretty heartbreaking.’’

It was not the first time their son had caused them unintentional grief.

A 2005 car crash left him hospitalised for weeks with a broken back. There were concerns he would never walk again, let alone sail.

‘‘They said initially if the car hadn’t been fitted with airbags he probably would have been killed,’’ Mr Outteridge said.

‘‘And then the surgeon who finally saw him when they airlifted him to Sydney said if he wasn’t so fit, he probably would have been paralysed.

‘‘They had to fuse three vertebrae in his back. Obviously he’s recovered well.’’

Mr Outteridge said the whole experience was ‘‘tough, very tough’’ on the whole family.

‘‘He spent a lot of time in hospital,’’ he said. ‘‘And Jasmine having to stay in Sydney to be with him ... it was tough.’’

His wife said she tried to help Nathan stay positive. But if the 19-year-old was a physical wreck, his will power was unbreakable.

‘‘That’s sheer determination,’’ she said. ‘‘He’s very determined. He set himself a challenge and he got there.’’

Wednesday’s triumph was as much for Outteridge’s parents as the four-time world champion himself.

The result was actually sealed on Monday, when the Australian duo emerged from the 15th and penultimate race with an unassailable lead, which meant the parents could breathe easy on the final day of competition.

‘‘It was good,’’ Mr Outteridge said. ‘‘All the stress was gone today. It was just a really joyful day today ... and they had a lot of support here, too, which was great.’’

Mr Jensen said the two boys had been obsessed with sailing since primary school and the Wangi yachting community was ‘‘like a big family’’.

‘‘They’ve worked really hard. People probably don’t realise how hard,’’ he said. ‘‘They’ve been sailing with and against each other, since before they were teenagers.

‘‘They’ve just been great mates, and the whole thing in Wangi has just been fantastic.

‘‘There are a lot of guys who have come out from home to support them.’’

Like the Outteridges, the Jensens confessed to shedding a few tears during the national anthem.

‘‘We’re very proud parents,’’ Mrs Jensen said.

She was delighted there was no chance of a last-minute disaster, as was the case in Qingdao four years earlier.

‘‘It was such a relief,’’ Mrs Jensen said. ‘‘We heard the weather wasn’t going to be very good today.

‘‘A bit of luck comes into it, so we were very relieved to have it wrapped up.’’

As for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, chances are Nathan and Iain will be back to defend their title.

And they will not have to look far for support.

‘‘It’ll be on our priority list,’’ Mrs Jensen said.

‘‘If he’s still doing it in four years time, we’ll be there,’’ Mr Jensen added.

A gold medal was the perfect way for Nathan and Iain to repay the support of the large contingent of family and friends in Weymouth, and hundreds more back at home watching at the Wangi RSL.

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

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