Double Olympic medalist recognised with New Zealand Honour
by Richard Gladwell on 31 Dec 2009
One of the icons of New Zealand sailing, Rex Sellers, has been named in the New Year's Honours published today.
Then YNZ President, and Nelson’s most outstanding sailor, double Olympic medallist, Rex Sellers chats with sailors and local media after speaking at Opening Day, Nelson Yacht Club 2007 © Richard Gladwell www.richardgladwell.com
He will be invested as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
Sellers is best known as the winner of an Olympic Gold medal in 1984 and a silver medal in Pusan, Korea in 1988, both crewed by Chris Timms.
In 1992 he sailed his third successive Olympic regatta finishing fourth in Barcelona with Brian Jones as his crew.
All told, Sellers was selected for five Olympic Games in the Tornado class starting with the 1980 Olympics which New Zealand boycotted, and concluding with the 1996 Olympics in Savannah (USA).
Sellers (59) is one of New Zealand's most successful New Zealand sailors. He, along with Chris Timms (who was tragically killed in an aerobatic jet accident) are the only New Zealand sailors to have won multiple Olympic medals outside of Boardsailing. Timms, a very innovative thinker and one of the great enthusiasts of sailing went on to establish a leading composite technology company.
After five Olympic campaigns Sellers moved across to Oracle Racing for the 2000-2003 America's Cup where he headed their weather team.
He was also Team Manager and Coach of two Optimist teams in 1999 and 2000. Sellers coached for 15 years in the Optimist, P Class, Starling, Hobie 16, Tornado, Etchell, 470, Mistral and RSX boards
Born in Nelson, New Zealand, Sellers has spent most of his life on the water having started sailing at the age of 11 years and become a commercial fisherman soon after leaving school in Nelson. He sailed Cherubs in his early sailing days, taking second place in the 1972 Cherub World Championships, he also competed in the 470 and Flying Dutchman classes before moving across the to the Tornado catamaran - which he last sailed competitively in the 2008 World Championships off Takapuna, with his son Brett (also a very accomplished multihull sailor) as crew.
In October 2005 he was elected President of Yachting New Zealand, serving a two year term, and was a member of YNZ's Olympic committee which oversaw the reforms in the Olympic sailing program, culminating in a Gold medal in the RS:X Mens event in the 2008 Olympics in Qingdao.
Known as one of the hard men of New Zealand sailing, Sellers made no secret of where he was coming from in an interview soon after taking over the YNZ Presidency:
Sellers, who won gold and silver in consecutive Olympics in 1984 and 1988, says many modern competitors lack the toughness that was the hallmark of his generation.
‘I think we’ve got a lot more into the politically correct, touch-feely area of life now.
‘In those days people who did do well at the Olympics, the likes of Russell Coutts, Chris Dickson, Murray Jones and Leslie Egnot, they all came from pretty hard environments.’
New Zealand’s sailors went without a medal at Athens, but Sellers believes the success of some individuals has masked deeper problems with sailing in New Zealand.
‘The (Wind-surfing) board sailors have done well, but that’s been with their own programme, effectively. So because of that people thought we were still doing well, but the reality is that there’s been a general slip for some time.’
The other sailing Gold medalist in the 1984 Olympic Games at Long Beach, Russell Coutts was awarded the MBE in 1984 and who was later knighted for his services to Yachting, commented:
'To medal twice in our sport is a tremendous achievement that many of the world’s top sailors never achieve in a lifetime. Rex clearly established himself as a world-class athlete with Gold in 1984, Silver in 1988 and a fourth place in 1992.
'After this great success as a competitor, Rex went on to give back to the sport with a two-year term as President of Yachting New Zealand.
'Leadership in our sport from someone like Rex is so important in providing inspirational role models to the next generation of sailors so that they continue to pursue their passion and commitment to yachting.'
Seller's nomination was made by Yachting New Zealand, supported by Russell Coutts, Chris Dickson, Ralph Roberts, Peter Montgomery, Peter Talley and the Nelson and Howick Yacht Clubs
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