Belfast Telegraph

McGovern and Seaton out to set sail for Rio after 2012 misery

By Steven Beacom

The lifestyles of Northern Ireland sailing duo Matt McGovern and Ryan Seaton sound magical.

Racing around in boats in exotic locations all over the world, from Lake Garda in Italy to Sydney, Australia, with the sun constantly on their backs.

Bliss. The pair of them are honest enough to admit that they love their lives on the ocean waves.

You get no cock and bull stories that they are working too hard to enjoy the adventure, but we would be wrong not to acknowledge the huge effort these guys put in during training and in competition. McGovern and Seaton, who started sailing together in 2009, are serious sportsmen.

Now consistently performing to a world class standard, illustrated by victory in the prestigious Sail for Gold Regatta at Weymouth last year and a hard fought runners-up spot in a World Cup event in the French Riviera earlier this season, the boys from Ballyholme Yacht Club genuinely believe they can bring home an Olympic medal from Rio in 2016.

The quest for that treasure for the two likeable lads starts today in Santander, northern Spain, when the 49er class of the ISAF World Sailing Championships begins, ending on Sunday.

They need a top-10 finish to put themselves on the Rio-bound plane. That's not all they want, though, with the target a spot on the podium in Spain followed by another one in South America in two years' time.

"I think we were the first people from Northern Ireland to qualify for the London 2012 Olympics back in December 2011," says Bangor man McGovern, who along with his sailing partner had a 10-day training camp in Santander prior to the World Championships.

"Having a chance to qualify now might seem like ages away from the Rio Games, but it would be great for us to do it this early so we could focus all our training for Rio which has very specific conditions, such as light winds.

"We have had a really good season so far and haven't been outside of the top 10 in major events so hopefully if things don't go badly we should be okay, even though the competition is very strong.

"The ultimate goal at the World Championships is to win a medal and if we perform well that is on the cards."

McGovern admits he and Seaton were disappointed with their 14th-place finish at the 2012 Olympics. After London, they took a break, Ryan to finish his studies at university, and Matt covering maternity leave as a Performance Manager at the Sports Institute Northern Ireland.

"Working in an office was a good way for me to realise that I wanted to go sailing for the next four years," jokes McGovern, before turning straight faced to outline where he feels the duo are now and where they are going in the future.

"In the past we were fighting to get into the top 10 but now we have moved on to a new level and are looking at top five finishes or winning medals," he says.

"Our aim a year out from the Games will be to be consistently in the medals in big races rather than just challenging now and again.

"And come the Olympics the only thing we will be happy with will be a medal.

"We always said we would be on an eight-year campaign when we got together because there are so many technicalities in sailing that it normally takes about four years to get your teeth into it.

"After the London Olympics though, having finished a lot lower than we thought we would, we looked at what we had done up until that point and what we still had to do and asked if our ambitions were realistic as we didn't want to waste the next four years of our lives.

"We are really well supported by Sport NI and the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) and we didn't want to mess them around either so we looked at having the one goal of winning a medal, and not just going sailing around the world. We want something special to show for what we're doing."

Matt and Ryan, who is from Carrickfergus, have already sampled a taste of Rio thanks to the ISA taking them to Brazil.

McGovern said: "It is a pretty cool place and different to anywhere else we've been to. Hopefully the sailing will look great in Rio as there will be a fantastic backdrop with the beach and sunny weather. We intend to be there."

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