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Burton brilliant in medal race to win gold

17 August 2016

SAILING: Tom Burton has won Australia’s first sailing gold medal of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after an amazing turn around in the men’s laser medal race.

Burton needed to put five positions between himself and Croatia’s Tonci Stipanovic in order to win the gold.

The 26-year-old finished the medal race in third as the Croatian crossed the line in ninth to give Burton top step on the podium.

“It feels great to win gold,” Burton said.

“The amount of hours I have put into this, the sacrifices I have made; not going to my sister’s wedding, skipping the Opening Ceremony to try and get a good result and it’s all perfect now.”

In sensational scenes Burton used his tactical nouse as he match raced with Croatia’s Tonci Stipanovic ahead of the start.

Wanting to make sure the Croatian was at the back of the fleet to begin proceedings Burton sacrificed his own possession and then needed to track down the five spots needed for Olympic gold.

“The percentage chance I thought that I could win the gold was pretty slim.

“You want to do it and you want it to come off but you see these situations at many Olympics and many other Championships and it’s quite easy to slow a guy down and then finish at the back.

“We had a lot of talks in the last couple of days about a catch and release, get a penalty and just make it back for the start. It couldn’t have come off any better it was perfection nearly.

“I was five seconds late to the start which is not ideal but if the guy that is trying to slow you down is way further back than you then it’s great. I just stay close to all the other boats and give myself 25 minutes to pass the others.”

And pass the other boats Burton did. He steadily rounded up the field to only sit behind Brazil’s Robert Scheidt and France’s Jean Baptiste Bernaz at the finish line.

“I just tried to chip away. I just needed a few more boats and keep it close. Everyone was nervous out there. They are trying to do their own thing with the points they have so I just tried to put the pressure on.

“I was counting them off one at a time. I knew I wasn’t just going to go from last to first and I knew I just had to stay close.

“On the last down-wind I knew I was four ahead of him and I knew I needed to come third to win. I could see there were three boats ahead of him."

Burton started out the regatta with a 17th placed finish and after six races he was 17 points behind the Croatian.

“You just have to have it on the week. On the third day of the regatta I thought I was nearly out of it. I had a bit of a bad day and some situations throughout the week were tough.”

Stipanovic finished with silver and New Zealand’s Sam Meech claimed the bronze.

Matt Bartolo

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