When Malcom Page OAM steps on stage to be inducted as a member of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame he will be following in the footsteps of Australia’s most celebrated sailors.
For a country girt by sea, it makes sense that Australia should be good at water sports and Page is near the top of an illustrious crew that includes two Sport Australia Hall of Fame legends – Australia’s first ever Olympic sailor Jock Sturrock and America’s Cup Skipper John Bertrand.
Page’s achievements are worthy of such company – he is Australia’s most successful Olympic sailor – and he will be honoured with induction into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame as an athlete member for the sport of sailing.
A dual Olympic champion and seven-time world champion, Page dominated the men’s 470 class for almost a decade. The Australian sailing team captain from 2005 to 2012, he was the only Australian athlete across all sports to defend an Olympic title at the London Games and was chosen to carry the Australian flag at the closing ceremony.
The tenth sailor to join the ranks of Australia’s greatest sports men and women, Page describes his induction as “an incredible honour”.
“I’ve been to the dinners a few times before and know John Bertrand very well. He was the Godfather of my Olympic campaign for many years and having seen my coach Victor Kovalenko being inducted a few years back was very special.”
“To be amongst the ranks not just of those sailors but of all the great Australian sportspeople is very special. It’s the who’s who of Australian sport,” Page said.
Growing up on the Parramatta River, Page began sailing at the age of eight, but the path to becoming one of the most decorated Australian sailors of all time wasn’t pre-ordained.
“My family weren’t sailors. My eldest brother had a mate at school who was into sailing, so he got into it and then my middle brother and then I followed.”
“But we were very fortunate that we lived on the waterfront on Parramatta River so the water lifestyle was always very close. Mum was very strict – on a school night we weren’t allowed to go windsurfing or playing in the water – we had to wait until Friday afternoon.”
“I think it was some time later, at the Hunters Hill Sailing Club as a teenager that I think I decided that I wanted to go to the Olympic Games.”
After narrowly missing selection for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Page joined with Nathan Wilmot and the pair went on to win the 2004 world championship before finishing twelfth at the Olympic Games in Athens.
World titles in 2005, 2006 and 2007 followed in the 470 class and at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, under the tutelage of Sport Australia Hall of Fame member and master coach Victor Kovalenko, the pair won Olympic gold.
Page returned for his third Olympic appearance in London, this time with partner Mathew Belcher. The duo had already collected the 2010, 2011 and 2012 world titles and they produced a stunning display in the waters off Weymouth to record five wins heading into the gold medal race – where a second place was enough to secure the gold medal.
“When I think back over all the Games and championships, my recollection is that winning in London was harder,” Page reflected.
“With the world championships, it was always harder to win the first one than the second one but with the Olympics, maybe the physical side made it harder – it was a windy regatta, I was a little bit underweight and maybe my age was starting to take effect as well.”
“I found it physically draining. That whole nine days of the event I spent the whole time either competing, sleeping or eating. We were defending the gold medal and I felt a lot of responsibility for Matt because he’d never been there before and I was taking on that role of leadership so felt pressure from many different levels as captain of the Australian team.”
“I’d basically said I’ll do one more campaign as I wanted to be the first Australian sailor to get two golds, so that was weighing on my mind as well. I always said that London would be my last one. It was the perfect way to end my career.”
Page now sees the sailing world from another perspective, as the UK-based head of marketing and media at the International Sailing Federation he experienced the Olympics in Rio from the other side of the fence.
“Of the 14 days of competition there were only two where I wished I was on the water,” Page said.
“It’s a great way to stay connected to the sport I love and to all the people I love in sailing. I’m doing my utmost to make our sport bigger and better for them in the future.”
Malcolm Page OAM will be inducted to the Sport Australia Hall of Fame on Australian sport’s night of nights – the sold out 32nd Sport Australia Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Gala Dinner – presented by Etihad Airways, on Thursday 13th October at Palladium at Crown, Melbourne
Established in 1985, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame plays a vital role in preserving and perpetuating Australia’s rich sporting heritage, whilst promoting the values of courage, sportsmanship, integrity, mateship, persistence, and excellence, all underpinned by generosity, modesty, pride and ambition.