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Matt McGovern and Ryan Seaton aim to sail to success in Rio

McGovern and Seaton's strong bond can make waves

By Steven Beacom

It hasn't always been plain sailing for Matt McGovern and Ryan Seaton but right about now the pair are on the crest of a wave ready to compete in the Olympics for the second time.

At London 2012, racing for Ireland, they finished 14th in the 49er class.

Seaton and McGovern will be looking for better in Rio and genuinely believe they are in medal contention.

And they feel what can give them the edge is the strong bond that has developed between them.

When they started out as partners in 2009 it was a challenge for the pair, not least because Seaton was used to sailing on his own and communication was not what it could have been. Today they know what the other is thinking with just one glance.

Over the years their partnership has grown so much that they have become Northern Ireland's most successful sailors winning major events around the globe from the Sail for Gold Regatta in Weymouth to the Princess Sofia Regatta at the Bay of Palma in April.

Like brothers in and out of the boat, their togetherness is going to be key at the 2016 Games when the 49er racing starts on August 12.

"One of our biggest strengths is our strong relationship," says Bangor native McGovern, who like Seaton from Carrickfergus is good company and fun to be around.

"We enjoy ourselves and have good craic but we live in quite an intense environment where there is a lot of pressure.

"In our sport if you aren't performing you can get your funding cut so on and off the boat you have to get on to deal with that. We are going to Rio and want to do well for each other as much as ourselves.

"We've been together in the boat for several years now and I believe in that time we have progressed a lot. We are going to Rio believing that there are medals up for grabs."

Seaton says: "We have been in medal races this season and have won one big event already which gave us a lot of confidence. I think there are seven or eight teams in with a shot of winning medals at the Olympics and we are in that group.

"We are in really good form and feel in really good shape going into the Games. When Matt and I first started sailing together we had this eight year plan to be at a level where we felt we could compete with the best and we believe we have reached that level."

The Ballyholme Yacht Club members, whose families will watch the Olympics from home, travel to Rio next week.

The trip will be nothing new to the pair who have enjoyed many visits to the city before.

For all the sailors competing in the Olympics it is vital to test the water to prepare for different weather conditions and note down the best course to take.

The last time they were out in Rio was earlier this month. Both are still sporting tans.

"We have spent a lot of time over there familiarising ourselves with the course and putting as much information in our log books as possible," explains Seaton, who adds that during practice there has been the odd moment when they have been able to look around and admire what is a spectacular location.

"The backdrop for our event is absolutely amazing," adds the 28-year-old.

"There is Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer statue, two of the most iconic sights in Brazil.

"During our races we won't get any time to sit back and admire the surroundings but last week we were sat on the boat and felt so lucky to be there. It is a spectacular sight and the sunsets are amazing."

McGovern, 31, jokes: "We have been out in Rio so often that we feel like part of the furniture.

"We have a Brazilian flag which we have been bringing to dinners and fundraising nights at home getting it signed by everyone.

"We are determined to go to the Olympics and do well but we know this isn't just about us. It's for our families, our friends, the yacht club members, the people at Sports Institute Northern Ireland (SINI) who have worked so hard with us and everyone who has supported us along the way."

Both have also been funded by the Mary Peters Trust.

Seaton was just five when he began sailing with his dad. McGovern was a year older when he started the sport that has taken the duo to the greatest show on earth.

"Being part of the Olympics is something to behold," says McGovern.

"Neither of us can remember much about the opening ceremony in London because we were probably looking forward to our races so much, but the closing ceremony in London was probably the best day out we've ever had. This time we will work hard, race hard and hopefully enjoy and remember every moment."

Belfast Telegraph


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