An excited wee man

Dorset Echo: CONTENDERS: Portland’s 470 men’s sailors Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell in action CONTENDERS: Portland’s 470 men’s sailors Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell in action

SCOTTISH-BORN Luke Patience is ‘an excitable wee man’ who cannot wait to move into Team GB accommodation on Portland today for the final Olympic countdown.

Patience, who will be representing Great Britain in the men’s 470 dinghy event with best mate and crewman Stuart Bithell, recently claimed silver on home waters at the Skandia Sail for Gold regatta.

The 25-year-olds are relishing every moment of their first Games but ‘business is business’ and their focus is on winning medals not the Olympic experience.

“I’m so excited – today’s when it all starts,” said Patience, who lives in Weston, Portland.

“The venue opens and we’re under the wing of Team GB for the final build-up for the Games.

“Some teams aren’t moving into RYA Portland House yet but me and Stuart want to get ourselves locked in and to get used to it really.”

From today, Team GB Olympic contenders across the country will be wearing the same coloured kit each day – either red, white or blue.

All the athletes have also been provided with Team GB iPhones to minimise distractions during Games time.

Patience said: “It’s a different environment, a different type of Weymouth and Portland for the best part of three and a half weeks.”

At the Skandia Sail for Gold Ball in London, the official send-off for the British sailing team, BBC Sport presenter Richard Simmonds revealed that his editor had thought Patience was a rock star rather than a sailor.

Patience joked: “It was something to do with my kilt or hair, or perhaps both.”

The young helm is proud he was the first Scottish athlete selected for Team GB.

He said: “I can feel the warmth of everyone back there, who’ve helped me to get this far, including RYA Scotland and the Scottish Institute of Sport.

“Every athlete has a dream and it’s up to the individual to put all your eggs in one basket and go for it.

“But you wouldn’t get there half as quickly if you didn’t have all that support along the way.

“There’s a whole army behind your wee story.”

Patience described his Skandia Team GBR teammates as ‘a fun breed’ of people who ‘didn’t lose their personalities in the sport’.

He said: “We’re like a big family.

“You can do your own thing or hang out, go fishing, it’s that easy.

“Everyone’s a good laugh.”

He revealed: “Table tennis, that’s where you get the real pecking order of the team.

“Hannah (Mills) is good, so is Stuart and Ben (Chell) our sports psychologist.”

The London 2012-bound sailors face high expectations, as Britain has been the most successful sailing nation at the past three Olympic Games.

Patience said: “We all talk about the experience of the Games and it being an amazing event. It’s true but at the end of the day we’re here for one reason and that’s to win medals.

“Business is business and to come away with fourth and the experience is not enough.

“I hate losing. I’m not here for the experience, I’m here to win.

“The Olympics will only be enjoyable if we perform to our best, only then will we sleep easy at night.

“Me and Stuart are confident that doing all we can is firmly good enough to win Olympic Games and a medal – you can only control what you can do.”

Patience grew up around boats but his ‘active interest’ in sailing began aged seven at Rhu Marina, near Helensburgh on the west coast of Scotland.

He said: “It’s a gorgeous part of the world and a tricky place to sail with tides and wind shifts.”

His first experience of Weymouth was attending a youth Optimist selection event, aged about 10.

“I remember coming down the Ridgeway and seeing plants I’d never seen in my life. I thought I was arriving in some tropical place and I couldn’t believe how warm it was.”

He added: “I’m forever Scotland at heart but I feel at home here, particularly on Portland. They’re quite warm people, always ready for a chat and a blether.”

Patience and Bithell grew up together on the youth circuit – ‘travelling the European tour, having a blast, being young and naïve, doing all the things you should do when you’re in the early years of Olympic sailing.’ While they had always raced against each other, it had not occurred to them to join forces.

Patience said: “We came to the spring of 2009, Stuart had cut ties with his sailing partnership.

“I did two or three more events with my sailing partner at the time but I wasn’t feeling it – all the hard work hadn’t got us to where I wanted to be.

“We were a few weeks away from the 470 World Championships in Copen-hagen in August 2009 and I’d resigned myself to not going.

“Then I got a phone call from Stuart saying: ‘Do you fancy giving it a go?’ “We decided to have a laugh, went with a relaxed approach and won silver.

“As we stood there on the podium, getting the medals put around our necks we looked at each other and decided then and there to campaign for 2012.”

Patience and Bithell faced a nervous wait last year when their British rivals – double Olympic silver medallist Nick Rogers and crew Chris Grube – gained Olympic test event selection after outperforming them at Skandia Sail for Gold 2011.

But when Rogers and Grube did not secure a medal and Team Patience/Bithell won silver at last December’s World Championships in Perth, Australia, they earned the nod from RYA selectors in January.

Patience said: “We never doubted ourselves, we learned valuable lessons at Sail for Gold, about getting the balance between seizing opportunities and sensing danger.

“I can’t wait until we start racing on the Nothe, hopefully we’ll put on a good show.

“My mum, dad, sister, her boyfriend and a few relatives are coming down – they’ve gone to town and made Patience-Bithell stickers and T-shirts.

“We’re so lucky to be of this generation for the home Games, we’ve worked so hard and for so many years.

“I’m an excitable wee man and it’s not hard for me to get gee’d up.

“I can’t wait to get on to the starting line and be like: ‘Come on then, bring it on.’”

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