Born in Harare, Zimbabwe, Belinda is a sport and fitness fanatic with boundless energy, she spends her time competitively swimming and playing tennis as well as sailing.
Registered as an Australian Citizen at birth courtesy of her Australian mother; Belinda followed her brother and sister to Western Australia to attend university in 1991. Her father’s suggestion that she join a yacht club was met with disdain. “I hated sailing,” says Belinda, who went on to win Gold at her first Olympic Games in Sydney 2000.
The high achiever preferred other sports, but Belinda joined the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club whilst living in Perth where she attained a degree in Business, going on to work in finance, accounting and manufacturing,.
Between the age of 21 and 22 Belinda grew two inches which changed her physique and launched her into the sport. “The professionalism of the sport, great wind, cross training and the benefit of being able to use skills from my other sports changed my mind.”
Belinda won Australian and World titles in the 420s and joined an all-girl crew on a Whitbread 60. They sailed from the UK to Cape Town then on to Perth and Sydney. Belinda thenmoved from Perth to Sydney, where she and skipper Jenny Armstrong were coached by Victor Kovalenko in the 470 class. They vied for and won Olympic representation for Sydney 2000. “Victor is a fantastic coach,” she says.
Racking up wins and places in the lead up to the Games, she won Gold in front of her home crowd – the first ever medal win for Australia in the class.
“It was an amazing feeling to win in Sydney. It’s the standout for me - always my dream. It’s something you keep and remember forever. But afterwards I thought: “What am I going to dream about now?” The medal affected so many things after that,” she says.
Public speaking engagements followed. They are something Belinda hopes to continue in the future. “I love to inspire others.”
However, the bubble burst at Athens in 2004. Full of enthusiasm and expectation, cracks appeared, notably in some results. A win at Kiel Week just prior to Athens restored confidence; but 14th was their final Olympic result.
“I knew we had every chance to win a medal. I thought we’d done everything we could. The pressure was on after winning Gold, so it was a huge disappointment. In retrospect, psychology was a big factor and it affected our result.”
The loss took its toll. Belinda took a break from sailing, opting for kayaking, triathlons and swimming. Wanting to give back to sailing, she joined the West Australian Institute of Sport as a coach.
“I love coaching. There is so much talent here and the sailing is good. Because of the Gold medal, I have respect from those I coach - five are in the National Squad. I’m also learning more about different aspects of sailing.”
Self-motivated, disciplined and determined best describe the 34 year old who says, “I’ve always wanted to try windsurfing,” which translates to contesting for the RS-X sailboard place for Beijing 2008.
“I want to see how far I can get. It’ll take time, but I know I will get better. I’m still competitive and you need to give things a go – have no regrets.”
It won’t be easy - but Belinda thrives on challenge. Limping due to injuries sustained from long hours standing in a coach boat, she uses her determination and help from world champion sailor turned coach, Arthur Brett, to begin her new challenge.
She will also continue her coaching role. “I can do both. It will make me a better sailor and coach.”