Bury St Edmunds' Matt Barton targets a place in British sailing team for Tokyo 2020
Bury St Edmunds may not be a town known for its watersports, but windsurfer Matt Barton is determined to change all that.
The 23-year-old from Pakenham has an Olympic dream and is targetting a place on the British sailing team for Tokyo 2020, in the RS:X windsurfing class.
But the former King Edward VI School pupil knows he will have his work cut out, with just one place on the team.
“I’m ranked in and around the top four at the moment,” he said.
“Only one person goes to the Games though, so it’s quite competitive. It’s a challenge, make no mistake, but I’m determined and I know it’s within my grasp; I have the ability.
“So I’m putting in a big push for Tokyo. February 2020 is the big qualification event for it so that’s my focus and the goal for now.
“It’s make or break over the next nine or 10 months.”
Barton added he is ‘very pleased’ with his most recent showing, at the Semaine Olympique Française 2019 held at the start of May, as he knuckles down for a season of events culminating in the 2020 RS:X Windsurfing World Championships in Auckland from February 23 to 29.
He finished 13th in a world class international field in France, as the fourth athlete from the UK – tied on points with Britain’s Sam Sills in 12th – to give him encouragement for the months ahead.
“There’s something like 450 days to Tokyo,” he said. “And they say that the 500-day lead-in for an Olympics is when you improve the most.
“I think you push yourself harder in competition and train that bit harder and so show the most improvement.”
Barton trains at the Skyliner Sports Centre on Moreton Hall when he’s not at the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy – the British sailing team’s training base, but currently spends about 75 per cent of the year abroad.
“Bury is still home,” he said. “Even if I do spend about three weeks of every month abroad.
“Windsurfing is a very physical sport, so it requires a lot of time in the gym – and so you’ll probably see me on the rowing machines at the Skyliner at some point or another.
“And I’ll have a big grin on my face too – well, maybe not when I’m on the machines but I feel so fortunate that I get to do this as my full-time job.
“Win or lose, I just feel very lucky.
“And who knows, maybe Bury will one day be famous for its sailing skills. It would be amazing to one day bring home an Olympic medal or even just inspire someone.”
He said he had fallen in love with the sport, and being on the water, almost instantaneously after finding he had a natural aptitude for sailing, and windsurfing in particular, as a 12-year-old.
He quickly progressed and went on to the University of Exeter to combine his degree with training, holding the position of Commodore for the university’s sailing club.
Catching the eye of British Sailing Team selectors, he is now part of a youthful RS:X squad all competing for a 2020 Olympic spot.
“I have at least two chances of an Olympic place,” Barton added. “But Tokyo is definitely the one I’m aiming at.
“It’s going to be an exciting year.”