Olympics-Sailing-Australia, Britain win gold as Games regatta closes

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Sailing - Men's 470 - Medal Race - Enoshima Yacht Harbour - Tokyo, Japan - August 4, 2021. Mathew Belcher of Australia and Will Ryan of Australia celebrate winning gold after the race. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

ENOSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) -Matthew Belcher and Will Ryan of Australia stormed to Olympic gold for Australia in the men's 470 sailing class on Wednesday, with Britain's Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre winning the women's competition to close the regatta.

After a thrilling battle for silver, Sweden's Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergstrom came out on top as Jordi Xammar and Nicolas Rodriguez Garcia-Paz picked up the bronze for Spain.

Poland's Agnieszka Skrzypulec and Jolanta Ogar took silver in the women's category with a storming performance in the medal race to pass French pair of Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz who ended up with bronze.

Belcher and Ryan performed brilliantly in the opening series, winning three races and finishing in the top five in nine of the 10 preliminaries to set themselves up for a cruise to gold in a medal race staged in blazing sunshine.

"It's a crazy position to be in going into a medal race, where all you've got to do is just not make any mistakes," Belcher, who with two golds and one silver is now the most successful Australian Olympic sailor of all time, told reporters.

The 2016 runners-up avoided the tussle behind them as crews from Sweden, Spain, New Zealand and Britain battled it out.

The Swedes kept pace with the Australians as they made their break, coming out on top in their battle with the Spaniards to finish second in the medal race as well as in the overall standings to take silver.

There was high drama in the women's race as Britain's Mills, racing with a new partner in McIntyre, successfully defended the Olympic title she won in Rio as Poland edged the French team in the race for second in the overall standings.

The French crew lodged a protest against the British team, leaving the sailors nervously waiting for the result of the jury's deliberations, but the protest was dismissed and the result stood.

The controversy was a fitting end to a regatta featuring false starts, disqualifications, rough seas and variable winds that brought the very best out of the Olympic competitors over 10 days of competition.

Britain finished top of the sailing medals table with a haul of three gold, one silver and one bronze, with Australia's two gold enough for second place. The Netherlands came third with one gold and two bronze medals.

(Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Peter Rutherford, Clare Fallon and Ed Osmond)

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