Young, experienced New Zealand team selected for 2012 Sailing Olympics
by Richard Gladwell on 21 Dec 2011
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke of New Zealand compete during the yellow fleet race for the 49er Men’s Skiff Class of the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships Paul Kane /Perth 2011 http://www.perth2011.com
The New Zealand Olympic Committee, at a function at Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, today announced a Sailing team to contest seven events at the 2012 Olympic Regatta in Weymouth, England, next August.
Yachting is the first sport to announce its Olympic team, however others may be added to the team announced today. The announcement follow the conclusion of the ISAF World Sailing Championships which were the Olympic Qualification for 75 percent of the places at the 2012 Olympics. New Zealand qualified in nine of the ten events -not contesting the Mens Keelboat (Star).
All those selected placed in the top ten in their event in the ISAF Worlds in Perth, and three won medals.
The contentious decision in the Mens Windsurfer (RS:X) has gone the way of JP Tobin (34) - long time rival of 2008 World Champion and Gold Medalist, Tom Ashley. The pair have had extremely close results for the past 12 months underlined by the 2011 World Championships in Perth last weekend, when Ashley led Tobin going into the short medal race sailed on a stadium course. There Tobin was able to turn the tables on the Olympic Gold Medalist and finished in fifth place in the overall standings with Ashley sixth overall.
Top 49er pairing of Blair Tuke (22) and Peter Burling (20) are no surprise for selection in the Mens Skiff event. Although the two have only been sailing together since 2008, they have four world championships between them and have steadily improved in the 49er to the point where they won the Silver medal at the recently concluded ISAF World sailing Championships in the 49er class.
The selection of the Womens Doublehanded (470) crew of Jo Aleh (25) and Olivia Powrie (24) is no surprise. The crew have won a Womens 420 World Championship together and placed second in the 2010 Womens 470 World Championships. After an indifferent opening to the 2011 ISAF World Championships, they recovered well in the tailed end of the regatta to close the gap on the top trio and then won third place overall with a third place in the Medal race. This will be Aleh's second Olympics, having represented New Zealand in 2008 in Qingdao in the Womens Singlehander (Laser Radial) class.
In the Mens Singlehander (Laser) 2008 Olympic representative Andrew Murdoch (29) has again been selected after a strong performance in the ISAF Worlds, where he won the Bronze medal. Murdoch also established a significant margin over the second NZer Andy Maloney who placed 12th overall in Perth. Murdoch makes few errors underlined by his 2008 Olympic result where he finished in fifth place, just 6pts away from a medal.
Another young crew of Paul Snow-Hansen (21) and Jason Saunders (21) have been selected to represent New Zealand in the Mens Doublehander (470). They finished in 8th place overall in the 2011 ISAF Worlds and seventh country. Snow-Hansen is a top P-class and Optimist skipper being the only sailor to have ever won the prestigious Tanner and Tauranga Cups along with the NZ Optimist Championships in the one year. On the international scene he has placed second in the World Optimist Championships. Crew, Jason Saunders is a product of the Tauranga Sailing Factory making his mark in Starling class. They have had a speckled career in the 470 class, but will be looking to consolidate on the excellent form they showed in Perth on the build up into Weymouth, also expected to be a fresh-air venue.
A first time Olympian, Sara Winther (30) has been selected in the Womens Singlehander (Laser Radial) after placing 10th in the ISAF Worlds in Perth. Winther had an excellent 2010 season, finding form towards the end of the European season, but had some excellent and indifferent placings in key regattas in 2011. However she regained some of her old form at Perth, particularly in the middle of the regatta and again will be looking to build on this platform. Clearly the early selection for Weymouth is aimed at giving her a clear path forward.
The selection of the Stephanie Hazard, Jenna Hansen and Susannah Pyatt in the Womens Match Racing (Elliott 6m) is one of the great comeback stories of NZ sailing in 2011, and NZ sport. After a very indifferent season in 2011, the crew were denied a place in the Pre-Olympics in Weymouth in August - even though NZ had qualified. After a taking of stock and a hardening of attitude coupled with some serious training sessions with top overseas crews, the Koru Match Team began to turn in the results and showed the fight that had been so lacking in their previous racing. In the Perth Worlds, against a fleet of 29 competitors they placed 9th and 8th best country. Their early selection, together with a lack of personal commitments, is expected to sharpen their focus and facilitate their climb up the Match Racing ladder.
No selection was made in the Heavyweight Mens Singlehander (Finn) and Womens Windsurfer (RS:X) although New Zealand has qualified for the 2012 Olympics in both events. In the Mens Keelboat (Star class) a new crew combination may attempt to qualify in the final round of Olympic Qualification where just three places are available.