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Sailors are Australia's success stories

Sailors are Australias success stories image 1

(EPA/NIC BOTHMA)

Australia's sailors are again punching above their weight at the Rio Olympics, with seven of the 11 sailors winning medals.

If Australia's Olympic team was as successful as its sailors, they'd have 268 medals.

Seven of 11 Australian sailors will leave Rio with medals in their kitbag - a strike rate of about 64 per cent.

Extrapolate that to the entire 422-strong Australian team and it's 268 medals.

Sure, it's a fanciful stretch.

But the sailors are on to something.

"We only had 11 athletes here and seven of us medalled," sailor Mat Belcher said after collecting a silver medal with partner Will Ryan in the 49er class on Thursday.

"We had 13 athletes (sailors) in London. And eight of us medalled."

Australian sailors claimed one gold and three silvers in Rio's polluted waters.

In London four years ago, Australian sailors won three gold and one silver.

But Belcher isn't about to crow about sailing being the number one Australian sport at the Olympics.

"I don't know where we are with the sports," he said.

"But it makes me proud, really proud, to be part of this team."

So what's the sailing secret?

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(AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

First reason: rigorous selection.

If hierarchy don't think you can medal, or at the very least finish in the top 10, you're not selected - regardless of whether you reach qualifying standards.

Second reason: family. Not blood family, but sailing family.

Belcher is about to leave his second family - the sailing - for his real family.

The 33-year-old hadn't seen his children for three and a half weeks - one fell ill in Rio and he didn't want to risk himself getting sick and jeopardise his Olympics.

"I haven't seen my kids in three and a half weeks. And the last time it was in Australia was eight and a half months (ago)," Belcher said.

So Belcher sought solace with his other family, the sailors.

"It's an amazing family," he said of the sailing team.

"We have such a great family atmosphere and we really push each other a lot.

"We're about performance. And the fact that we all work so well together and really support each other when we needed it, we have seen that in multiple Olympics now."

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(AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Third reason: attention to detail.

Sailing bosses first came to Rio before the London Games to suss out the course and conditions.

"It's our 10th time to Rio," Belcher said.

"We have really invested a lot of time to get an understanding of these conditions."

Belcher is yet to decide if he'll compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

But Australian sailing hierarchy have already been there in April on the first of many reconnaissance missions.

© AAP 2016