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Top sailors to watch in Rio

Mat Belcher and Will Ryan, Australia's men's 470 team
2015 Getty Images

Top sailors to watch in Rio

Top sailors to follow at the Rio Games

With the 2016 Rio Games around the corner, get to know the top athletes in Olympic sailing. 

Mat Belcher and Will Ryan

Australia's reigning Olympic champion, Mat Belcher, won gold in London with former partner Malcolm Page. 

Mat Belcher has won the past five world championships, including the past two with Ryan. They are by far the favorite to win the men's 470 class.



Will Ryan and Mat Belcher, Australia's men's 470 class

Will Ryan (left) and Mathew Belcher (right) pose during a selection announcement for the Australian Olympic Games sailing team for the 2016 Rio Games in Sydney, Australia. Credit: Matt King; 2015 Getty Images

Giles Scott

Great Britain’s Giles Scott will attempt to take over the reign of five-time Olympic medalist Ben Ainslie in the Finn class.



Great Britain Sailing's Giles Scott

Giles Scott (Finn class) poses for a portrait during the Team GB Kitting Out ahead of the 2016 Rio Games on June 26, 2016 in Birmingham, England. Credit: 2016 Getty Images

In the last four years, Scott has won gold in 16 of 18 regattas entered. The Finn class will crown a new winner in Rio and Scott will be the top contender.

Blair Tuke and Peter Burling

The men’s 49er class gold medal at the Rio Games is New Zealand’s to lose. In the past four years, Blair Tuke and skipper Peter Burling have been undefeated through 26 regattas in their respective event.



Blair Tuke and Peter Burling, New Zealand's Olympic men's 49er team

Blair Tuke, left, and Peter Burling selected for the Olympic Sailing Team in the 49er (men's skiff) class on March 14, 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand. Credit: Dave Rowland; 2016 Getty Images

Although they won silver at the London Games, they won gold in four straight world championships and plan to continue their streak in Rio. "It's not about the winning streak," Burling said, according to the Associated Press. "We're not too worried about that. The last four years have been about trying to get a gold medal for New Zealand in Rio."

Xu Lijia 

China’s sailing star, Xu Lijia, is a favorite to win the Laser Radial class at the Rio Games. 



China's Lijia Xu competes in the Laser Radial

China's Lijia Xu competes in the Laser Radial during day six of the ISAF Sailing World Cup at Weymouth & Portland. Credit: Jordan Mansfield; 2016 Getty Images

However, Xu originally stepped away from the sport after winning gold at the London Games. She made her return, but it wasn't until late 2015. The lapse in training may give The Netherlands’ Marit Bouwmeester and even American Paige Railey an advantage.

Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha

The American women's 470 team of Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha won gold in the test event in Rio – the very place where they will be contending for a medal.
 
They won bronze at the 2015 European Championships in the 470. Team Haeger / Provancha, as they are also known, have been sailing together since college and that chemistry may translate to something great.

 



U.S. Sailing's Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha

U.S. Sailing's Annie Haeger (right) and Briana Provancha (left) during the 2016 Team USA media summit in Beverly Hills, Calif. Credit: 2016 The Associated Press

 

 

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