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Dutch born Windsurfer has sights on Kiwi berth at Tokyo

by Suzanne Mcfadden 26 Mar 17:24 PDT 27 March 2019
Veerle ten Have (NZL) - RS:X - Day 4 - Hempel Sailing World Championships, Aarhus - August 2018 © Sailing Energy / World Sailing

It’s been over a decade since a Kiwi woman windsurfed at the Olympic Games.

The last (and, actually, our only female Olympic windsurfer) was 1992 ‘golden girl’ Barbara Kendall, who bowed out after her fifth Olympics in Beijing 2008.

But Kendall, who won a medal of every hue, can see hope sailing on the horizon. And she’s thrilled to finally have a successor.

It’s Tauranga teenager Veerle ten Have who Kendall sees breaking the drought, and who she thinks could have a shot at competing at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

“Vee has all the spirit, all the energy, and all the right ingredients to be a rock star,” says Kendall.

“She’s one of the most positive, happy, intelligent, determined and focused young women that we’ve had in windsurfing for a long time. And I’m glad she’s around.”

Ten Have hopes that Kendall is right.

The 18-year-old is putting all she has into getting to Tokyo 2020. That’s meant training every day - on her own - on the Tauranga Harbour, and doing her final year of high school through correspondence, so she can travel the globe training and racing on the world windsurfing circuit.

It was only recently, though, that ten Have – New Zealand’s top female boardsailor - began seriously considering herself as a candidate for Tokyo. Originally a competitive horse rider, she only took up windsurfing when her horse was injured. Tthe Olympics never figured in her future.

“Even when I’d go to a world championship [she’s already been to seven] I didn’t have the Olympics in mind,” she says.

But when she won a silver medal at the youth sailing world championships in Corpus Christi last July – the highlight of her career so far - it made her think again.

A little sage advice from Kendall helped, too. Ten Have competed at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires last October, but was disappointed with her 13th placing. She was sailing a smaller techno board that didn't suit her: “I’m way too big for them."

Kendall, who was the chef de mission of the New Zealand Youth Olympic team, took ten Have aside and reassured her.

“I told her ‘you’ve come this far, and it’s only a couple of years until Tokyo. You have all the ingredients you need to get there, and you’ll regret it if you don’t give it a good nudge’,” Kendall says.

“If she does what she’s meant to do, she will make it to Tokyo. By Paris 2024, she’ll be in exactly the right age bracket and have the right formula to do incredibly well.”

If she doesn’t make it this time, it won’t be through lack of trying. Every day, ten Have takes her RS:X windsurfer and sails out into the Tauranga Harbour, off Sulphur Point.

The spit of land, that juts out towards Mount Maunganui, has recently earned its place in New Zealand sailing folklore. It’s the home of the Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club, whose sailors won three medals at the last Olympics - Sam Meech (bronze), Molly Meech (silver), and victorious America’s Cup helmsman Peter Burling (gold).

Ten Have – who was born in the Netherlands, and came to New Zealand as a five-year-old - usually sails her daily two-hour workouts alone. “If there are boats going out, I’ll go with them,” she says.

She used to train with Max van der Zalm, a talented windsurfer who also represented New Zealand at the Youth Olympics. “But he’s away doing his basic training for the Navy,” she says.

For the rest of this story from Newsroom's Suzanne McFadden

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