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Rio 2016 - Yachting NZ fails to nominate in three Qualified Classes

by Richard Gladwell, on 10 May 2016
Sara Winther (NZL)- Day 5, 2016 Laser Radial World Championships, Mexico JLDigitalMedia
Yachting New Zealand have only nominated two sailors in the second tranche of 2016 Olympic selections for five qualified events.

Two singlehanded sailors have been added to the Kiwi Olympic team in the two Men's Singlehanded classes - the Finn and Laser. Appeals are being lodged today by two sailors in the Women's events.

New Zealand was one of three countries to qualify a full ticket of ten sailors in the first round of qualifying at the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Santander, Spain in 2014.

The selection announced today mean that three of those ten places in the first qualification round will not be taken up and will be reallocated to lower placed sailors from other nations.

Only a few nations each Olympiad are able to qualify in all Olympic sailing events. Not using three first round qualification places is an unprecedented occurrence in Olympic sailing history.

Yachting New Zealand and the New Zealand Olympic Committee have announced first time Olympians Josh Junior and Sam Meech in the Finn and Laser classes respectively.

There have been no nominations made in three classes – the Mens and Womens Windsurfer (RS:X) and the Womens Singlehander (Laser Radial).

The Windsurfer has been the most productive of the Olympic events for New Zealand winning seven medals from eight Olympiads, since 1984.

Triple Olympic medalist in the Womens Windsurfer, Barbara Kendall (NZL) is overseas at present. She told Sail-World by email that she was disappointed to see that there will be no New Zealand representation in Windsurfing, a discipline which has won New Zealand seven medals from the past eight Olympiads.

“It is disappointing to not see New Zealand windsurfers in the Games for the first time since 1984 especially after the legacy of the past performances,', said the five times Olympian.

“This highlights a few gaps in our development programs for sailing once the kids leave Optimists and also the cost in many areas of getting to that podium.

“Success is never guaranteed and if there is no development you will see gaps which we are now seeing in the classes that weren’t selected by YNZ.'

The fate of the Men's nomination was largely determined in 2015 when the 2012 Olympic representative JP Tobin pulled out of contention after being unable to reach an agreement with Yachting New Zealand. He has since joined the Windsurfer coaching exodus from New Zealand and will be coaching for Brazil in the buildup to the 2016 Olympics. He has joined Tom Ashley (now with China). Bruce Kendall (Hong Kong) and Aaron McIntosh (Netherlands).

The place for which Tobin qualified New Zealand in 2014, will now be re-allocated under a prescribed formula and is likely to be taken up by a 22yr old Belarussian Windsurfer who finished in 63rd place in the 2016 RS:X Worlds.

The Kiwis showed their hand in the 2015 Rio Test Event selecting the same team as announced today with the exception of the Men's Laser. The three classes not selected did not compete for New Zealand in the 2015 Rio Test Event despite NZ being entitled to make an entry.

Winther and Kosinska competed in the 2014 Olympic Test Event in Rio de Janeiro, with Kosinska finishing in 9th place in the Womens RS:X and Winther 11th in the Laser Radial.

Sara Winther (Laser Radial) and Natalia Kosinska (RS:X) will Appeal their omission from the Olympic Sailing Team.

Winther placed 10th country (11th overall) in the recently concluded Laser Radial Worlds in Mexico, beating several other sailors who have been nominated for their nations’ 2016 Olympic team. Last week, Australia nominated Ashley Stoddart, who placed 22nd overall in the 2016 Laser Radial Worlds in their Olympic team.

Writing on her Facebook page, Sara Winther commented: “As you may have seen Yachting New Zealand has not nominated me for the Laser Radial class for the 2016 Olympics, despite finishing 10th country in the 2016 Worlds last month, and having qualified New Zealand for this event in the first round of Qualification in September 2014.

“YNZ's decision has come as a huge disappointment to me, and I will be appealing. I would like to thank everyone who has supported my campaign over the past four years, and right now I and Women's Sailing, need all the support and help we can get. I have been reminded by YNZ that I am still bound by my Athlete's Agreement and can't comment on this issue, at this time.”

Natalia Kosinska, a former ISAF World Youth Sailing Champion in the Windsurfer event has also placed well in terms of countries, at the past three World Championships for the RS:X.

In the 2014 Worlds she placed 11th country, 11th again in 2015 and 12th country in the 2016 Worlds.

The standard set by the New Zealand Olympic Committee is that the athlete be capable of placing in the top 16 in an Olympic Games. Given that sailing is permitted one competitor per nation in terms of Olympic potential assessment countries is the more relevant benchmark.

At the 2012 Worlds for the RS:X the eventual Olympic Gold Medalist placed 10th overall; the 2012 Olympic Silver medallist placed 14th overall. Kosinska, who was again not selected by Yachting New Zealand, placed 15th overall.

In the 2008 Olympics in Qingdao, China, Yachting New Zealand included a requirement of proven light weather performance in the NZ Olympic selection criteria - the regatta proved to be the windiest Olympics since 1988 in Korea.

Tobin told Sail-World in an interview last month that he regarded Kosinska as a “medal – shot” in Rio. He also cited a number of young male windsurfers who with proper development could have stepped up into the slot for which he qualified. But noted that it takes eight years to come up to Olympic level in the Laser and RS:X classes, where competition is particularly intense in the suplied one-design boats and few were prepared to make this committment with the level of self-funding required.

Sara Winther and Natalia Kosinska are both are both former Medalists at ISAF Youth Worlds.

Kosinska also advised that she will be Appealing on social media:

' Very sad to advise that Yachting New Zealand has not nominated me for the Women's RSX windsurfer for the 2016 Olympics. In fact, they have not nominated anyone in the Mens or Womens Windsurfer class - an event that has yielded more Olympic medals than any other class.

'I have finished inside the NZOC qualifying standard of being in the top 16 countries at an Olympics in the four world championships in which I have competed in the current cycle. Yachting NZ's decision is very disappointing to me. I am seriously considering my options for an Appeal.

'Like Sara Winther, I would like to thank everyone who has supported my campaign over the past four years, and right now we and Women's Sailing, need all the support and help we can get. I have been reminded by YNZ that I am still bound by my Athlete's Agreement and can't comment personally on this issue, at this time.'

Two sailors have been announced today to join the New Zealand Olympic Team to Rio 2016 with Josh Junior named in the Finn class and Sam Meech in the Laser class.

Today’s announcement brings the now complete New Zealand Olympic sailing team to 12 athletes, competing in seven events.

The full NZ Olympic Sailing Team is:

Josh Junior – Finn (men’s heavy-weight dinghy)
Sam Meech – Laser (men’s light-weight dinghy)
Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie – Women’s 470 (women’s double-handed dinghy)
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke – 49er (men’s skiff)
Alexandra Maloney and Molly Meech – 49erFX (women’s skiff)
Paul Snow-Hansen and Daniel Willcox – Men’s 470 (men’s double-handed dinghy)
Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders – Nacra 17 (mixed gender multihull)

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