Slingsby shares top gong with CouttsChris Dutton
Published: November 17 2012 - 3:00AM
First they saved us from Olympic Games disaster and now Australia's sailors have scooped the awards at the Australian Institute of Sport gala dinner on Friday night.
Sailors, coaches and teams claimed three of the five awards up for grabs at the AIS Arena, which adds to the sport's success in London.
Tom Slingsby was the joint winner of the athlete of the year prize with swimmer Alicia Coutts, while the Australian mentors were named coaches of the year and sailing was declared the best AIS program.
The prizes capped off a superb year for the sport.
Just when Australia appeared doomed to tumble down the medal tally in London, the sailing team won three gold medals and a silver.
It eclipsed its previous best Olympic performances of two golds, a silver and a bronze, which was achieved in Sydney.
Australia won just seven gold medals at the London Games.
Had it not been for the sailors, Australia would have dropped down the medal tally and finished below cross-Tasman rivals New Zealand.
Slingsby is a five-time Laser world champion and won gold in London as well as two world titles.
Malcolm Page and Mathew Belcher won gold in the men's 470 class and Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen won the men's 49er category.
Slingsby, Page, Coutts, Paralympic runner Evan O'Hanlon, cyclist Anna Meares and Paralympic swimmer Ellie Cole were nominated for the athlete of the year award.
In the end nothing could split Slingsby and Coutts.
At her first Olympics, Coutts helped Australia win its only gold medal in the pool as part of the women's 4x100m freestyle relay.
She finished with a haul of five medals with three silvers and one bronze to go with her relay gold.
Her five medals enabled the 25-year-old to equal legends Shane Gould and Ian Thorpe as the greatest Australian total medal winner at a single Olympics.
Federal Minister for Sport Kate Lundy said both Coutts and Slingsby were ''inspiring''.
''Alicia has proven herself to be a world class champion both in and out of the pool,'' Ms Lundy said.
''Her five medals at the London Olympics give her a well deserved place in Australian Olympic record books.
''The Australian sailing team had a fantastic campaign this year culminating in three gold medals and a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics and gold at the 2012 London Paralympics.''
''Tom Slingsby is an outstanding sailor who has been at the very top for a number of years now. The two world championships and Olympic gold this year proves just what an exceptional athlete he is.
''To have athletes of this stature winning the award highlights the importance of the AIS and all our institutes and academies working with national sporting organisations to develop elite talent.''
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