Changing focus

Following the disappointing postponement of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, Laser team member Matt Wearn is using the time to gain a competitive edge.

Written by Jack O'Rourke
Photography by Beau Outteridge

22 July 2020


After spending four years in preparation for making the Australian Olympic Sailing team and going to Tokyo in 2020, the postponement of the Olympic Games until 23 July 2021 was a blow to Laser sailor Matt Wearn.

After successfully making the team, Wearn has reprioritised his goals with a focus on short-term pain for long-term gain. With the Olympics now just a year out, he shares his reactions and preparations ahead of 2021.


What was it like hearing the news and dealing with the Olympics being postponed?

Initially, when everything was kicking off with COVID-19, it was hard to believe that an event that big would get affected by something like that. Then, they officially postponed it, and I was in a bit of shock.


There was a little bit of relief when they announced the new dates, just knowing that you would still get an opportunity to go and compete.


How was your training impacted during lockdown?

I have been reasonably lucky; I was still able to get on the water. I was hoping to Europe when we usually would, but that didn’t go to plan.

Basically, I’ve been training by myself out on the water with no coach. At times, it felt a bit unproductive, but at the same time, I was feeling quite fortunate that I could still get on the water and go sailing.

I took that time to work on some things that I wouldn’t have been able to work on if I had gone to Europe, so that was okay. After a couple of weeks of that, I was pretty ready to get back with the group and get some coaching.


Did you find any innovative ways to keep going with your training?

We started doing a little bit of stuff with some drones because obviously then the coaches don’t really need to be nearby. It was a cool excuse to get a drone up in the air and do some video, then send the video off later for some analysis.


Has this downtime provided you with the opportunity to refresh the body and refocus?

A little bit. Coming off the World in February, the body was feeling quite tired, so having to back up and go to Europe in March would probably have been a bit of a stretch.

It was good to just relax a little bit and spend some more time at home; it was a good chance to refresh the mind as well.


Are you back out training now?

Yes, I’m back in Sydney at the moment training with the other Laser boys. I just did a camp up at Coffs Harbour with the group, so that was the first time that I had sailed with them since the Worlds in Melbourne. I’m planning to head back up north, hopefully in a week.


What do you think your first competitive sailing outing will be?

We had our fingers crossed that we might be able to get to Europe in late September for the Europeans, but it sounds like that’s not going to be possible any more. I’m looking at something domestically, maybe the State Championships here in Sydney or maybe over in Perth, which they’re planning on holding in October.

How has your focus changed following the postponement of the Olympics?

Initially, I was a little bit lost. Knowing that I was going to the Games for a little while, the coaches and I had such a solid plan in place of what events we were going to go do and what training we were going to do.

To basically have that thrown away out the window was tough to handle. I took a bit of time off to regroup. Then I just had to start building the training back up and focus on improving my sailing.

I’m just trying to find the positives out of the European season being cancelled. I look at it like this ­– it gives us another 12 months to get even better.

We’re trying to focus on some more Japan-like conditions, which is why we did the trip up to Coffs. So, that’s probably the biggest focus. Just trying to find as many things as we can that are like Japan so we’re ready to go.


And finally, training can be physically draining, but also very mentally demanding. How has your mental health been affected knowing that everything you have been working on in the four-year cycle leading into the Olympics is now extended another 12 months?

Initially, I struggled a little bit. The selection process to make the Australian Olympic Sailing Team was quite draining in itself. After that, everything was building up to the Games in Tokyo this year. Having it pushed back another 12 months was disappointing, and thoughts start to creep in every now and again of the possibility that it might not even happen.

Throwing that aside, I’m doing reasonably well. Obviously, we consider ourselves pretty lucky that we can still train together and things like that too.

It was probably the longest any of us have gone without seeing each other for a while, so we’re all pretty stoked to get back together and have a chat and tell some stories. It’s been good for the whole team.

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