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Gold Medalists Burling and Tuke named NZ Team of the Year

by Yachting NZ| NZ on 10 Feb 2017
Peter Burling, Blair Tuke and Hamish Willcox (coach) - 49er Medal Race 2016 Olympics Richard Gladwell

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have won the Team of the Year Award at the 54th Halberg Awards, held at Vector Arena in Auckland last night.

The Halberg Awards are the New Zealand national sport awards, initiated by Sir Murray Halberg, a Gold Medalist in the 1960 Olympics in the 5000 metres. He founded the Halberg Trust in 1963 for which the Halberg Awards are a major fundraiser. The awards chosen by a panel of sports journalists and others covers all sports and sporting achievements.

In Olympic year the Awards tend to be dominated by Olympic medalists. Key factors in Burling and Tuke's win was their winning the Gold Medal with a race in hand, together with their joint leadership of the New Zealand Olympic team at Official ceremonies.

The black tie event, hosted by the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation, also saw fellow NZL Sailing Team members and 2016 Olympic silver medallists Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie named finalists in the Team category, and Hamish Willcox named amongst the four finalists for the Buddle Findlay Coach of the Year Award following his work with Burling and Tuke in the build up to the Rio Olympic Games.

In their category, Burling and Tuke were also up against rowing pair Hamish Bond and Eric Murray (Gold Medalists in 2012 and 2016 and unbeaten in any rowing race over the eight year period), the Silver medalist in the Cycling Team Sprint combination of Eddie Dawkins, Ethan Mitchell, and Sam Webster, as well as Silver medal winning Womens 470 crew Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie.

It was the Burling and Tuke's fifth time at the annual Halberg event, and their first time to receive the team award, which has been won for each of those years by the rowing pair of Bond and Murray, who have also won the supreme award in 2012 and 2014.

“For Pete and I to be recognized in this group is really humbling. Everyone has represented the country to a high level, and to be part of that is something that we’re really proud of,” commented Blair.

The 49er skiff pair’s outstanding performance at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games saw them secure the gold medal before the final race had even begun, claiming the regatta win with a 43-point winning margin across 13 races. Their total dominance in events sailed during the run up to the games was also managed at the same time as working with Emirates Team New Zealand in preparation for the 2017 Americas Cup. In addition to this they were selected as flagbearers to lead the New Zealand team into the Olympic opening ceremony.

In their acceptance speech the 2015 Rolex ISAF sailors of the Year winners acknowledged their big team of supporters, as well as the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation for the opportunities they create.

“Blair and I are incredibly proud of what we’ve managed to achieve over the past four years. We’ve got a massive team behind us and we couldn’t have done it without them,” said Burling.

He said there has been little time for rest since Rio, with the next goal already in their sights of bringing the America’s Cup back to New Zealand this year as a busy few months lie ahead in their campaign with Emirates Team New Zealand. They leave for Bermuda in late March/early April 2017.

Yachting New Zealand Chief Executive David Abercrombie said the Team of the Year award marks a special milestone for yachting as the sport continues to flourish in New Zealand.

'I'm thrilled for Pete and Blair on the well deserved win. Their achievement in Rio was part of a fantastic campaign which has inspired budding sailors all over the country to follow in their footsteps. To be recognised at this level with high calibre athletes such as Bond and Murray is fantastic, as well as other inspirational sailors Jo and Polly, and the cyclists. It's also great for the sport to have coaches recognised, and for Hamish Wilcox to be among the finalists was outstanding,' he comments.

Reflecting on the success of the wider NZL Sailing Team in Rio last year, Abercrombie says the recognition comes at a great time as talented sailors start looking towards the next Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

Taking the Buddle Findlay Coach of the Year Award was Gordon Walker, coach to canoeist and Supreme Halberg Award winner Lisa Carrington, in a select pool which included Burling and Tuke's coach Hamish Willcox, All Blacks Coach Steve Hansen, and Jeremy McColl, coach to pole-vaulter Eliza McCartney.

It was a night to remember for the two sailing crews and coach who were part of the highly successful NZL Sailing Team to compete at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Following on from their Gold at the London Olympic Games in 2012, the remarkable achievement of Aleh and Powrie to claim silver in Rio following two disqualifications early on in the regatta was recognized, along with Willcox's experience and dedication as a coach which aided Burling and Tuke to their stunning string of success in the lead up to and during 2016 games.

The 12-strong NZL Sailing Team to compete in Rio also included Laser Bronze Medallist Sam Meech and 49erFX Silver Medallists Alex Maloney and Molly Meech.

For the full list of award winners and nominees click here

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