Laser-focused Burton hopes for smooth sailing in Rio

Wed Apr 20, 2016 6:15pm EDT
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Having steered his laser through sofas, big tree branches and other floating debris in Guanabara Bay, Australian sailor and medal hopeful Tom Burton is ready to expect the unexpected when he competes at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The quality of Rio's water-ways has long been a worry for competitors and organizers alike, and some athletes have complained of stomach ailments after training at their aquatic venues.

Burton, who has trained in Rio a number of times, feels the water has improved but said his last cruise of the bay was an eye-opener.

"We were there in March and there were some floods and that made it really quite bad," Burton, the world's top-ranked laser sailor, told Reuters in an interview.

"A lot of the rubbish was getting washed out into the bay. You’d come across couches and bits and pieces of trees. It was quite bad.

"I’d be quite upset if it was like that during the Olympics. Hopefully they get onto that."

Laid-back and measured in his responses, it's hard to imagine 25-year-old Burton losing his cool about anything but the Sydney resident is dead serious about his pursuit of Olympic gold, having fought ruthlessly to snare the sole spot available in the laser class.

Australia's sailing program is hugely competitive and yielded three gold medals at London out of the entire delegation's total of seven.   Continued...

Australian Olympic team sailor Tom Burton sails his laser yacht during a training session in front of the Sydney Opera House in Sydney Harbour, Australia April 13, 2016.  REUTERS/David Gray