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Australia's Finn sailors aiming for Tokyo 2020

by Cora Zillich 12 Dec 2019 21:27 PST 13-21 December 2019
Jake Lilley - Finn Gold Cup - Melbourne Summer of Sailing 2020 © Beau Outteridge

The world's best Olympic Finn sailors have arrived in Melbourne for the 2019 Finn Gold Cup, the world championships of the Olympic Finn Class, with racing starting on Port Phillip on Monday (16-21 December 2019).

Seven months out from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, a battle of Olympic dimension is set to unfold on Melbourne's Port Phillip with Olympians, Olympic and World Champions and those who want to make their Olympic dreams a reality racing for world championship glory as well as Olympic selection next week.

The Olympic Games is the ultimate goal in Olympic sailing and with only 19 countries to be represented at Tokyo 2020 in the Finn Class and with only four spots left the battle will be tight ahead of the final quota deciding events in the new year.

The 2019 Finn Gold Cup will be the Oceania qualification event with Australia yet to secure their Olympic quota spot. However, with New Zealand already having qualified at last year's world championships this will be more of a formality. But so much more will be at stake at the Finn Gold Cup with athlete selection far from decided yet in Australia as well as in many other of the participating over 20 countries.

Australian Sailing Squad's Jake Lilley (QLD) as well as Melbourne local Oliver Tweddell (VIC) are the current top ranked Australian sailors, who will face a tough challenge on home waters in order to impress selectors and keep their Olympic dream alive.

"When you are kid, the Olympics is all you ever dream of, to represent at the Olympics and to bring home that medal. I'm still chasing that dream and it's very much alive. It excites me to get out of bed every day and give it my best and keep growing and learning and it's fantastic to be involved in this sport and in this class," Rio Olympian Jake Lilley said.

"The Australian Sailing Team sets a really high benchmark for qualifying for the Olympics and that's the same as it has always been and I hope it remains that way. That's how we consistently produce high standards so I'm always aiming to reach that goal and do our country proud," Lilley added about the Finn Gold Cup being one event, amongst others, to count towards selection.

"Personally, I will just try to put together the best event that I can and I always try and finish up as high up on the leader board as I can at a world championship and fly the flag proudly. That's what I always try and do. Being the worlds is always a little bit extra, a bit more feeling a bit more emotion and excitement involved so I can't wait to get under way."

"It's great to be back at RBYC here in Melbourne and have everyone, all the world's best on our home waters for the Finn Gold Cup which is the climax of 2019 and probably the biggest event prior to the Tokyo Olympics next year," Lilley added about the importance of the event.

The event entry list reads like the who is who in Olympic Finn sailing with the current world's top 20 ranked Finn sailors all contesting the event. The stellar line-up includes defending world champion and Olympian Zsombor Berecz from Hungary, who also won the Tokyo 2020 test event, 2017 world champion and dual Olympian Max Salminen from Sweden, Olympian and world #1 Jorge Zarif from Brasil, world #2 Nicholas Heiner from the Netherlands, who was second at the test event, Olympian and world #3 Anders Pedersen from Norway as well as Rio 2016 Olympic champion and four-times world champion Giles Scott from Great Britain - to name just a few.

"Being the World Championships it is obviously a very important event and if you can take home the Gold Cup at the end of the week that's what's everyone is striving for. You obviously have that as a goal but in terms of preparing for Tokyo, all the world's best are here and to race and train against these guys is just a vital stepping stone and an important milestone in its own right," Lilley said with the Australian Sailing Squad having trained in Melbourne for the last few weeks together with the international fleet in preparation for the world champs.

For fellow team mate and local Victorian Oliver Tweddell the 2019 Finn Gold Cup will also be the celebration of Tweddell's comeback to international sailing competition following a difficult break of his wrist earlier in the year which kept him off the water for several months.

"The Finn Gold Cup will be my first competition back since my injury, with my last competition being the Nationals in January. I only received full medical clearance in August, so have been building myself back up from there, but I am very excited to get racing again and it is pretty cool to have the Finn Gold Cup held in home waters. Port Phillip Bay is a great venue to sail in and will provide a wide array of conditions for us" Tweddell said.

"While this is most definitely not my ideal preparation for the Gold Cup, it is the situation I am in and I will make the best of it. I am nice and fresh mentally and extremely eager to get racing again, with zero expectations other than to sail the best I can and give it my all," the Victorian Institute of Sport sailor said.

Nevertheless, like Lilley, the 29-year old has not lost sight of his ultimate dream to secure Australia a quota spot for the Tokyo 2020 Games and to put himself in a strong position for Australian selection.

"The Olympics have always been a goal of mine, and I see no reason why another setback would change that goal. It certainly makes the road there a lot harder, but it has also helped me develop more as an athlete and look at the goal from a different perspective, especially given I have been sat in a coach boat for three months coaching at the major Finn events this season. This different perspective has taught me a lot of lessons which I will use during the Gold Cup."

Event patron, Olympic medallist in the Finn class and sailing legend John Bertrand, AO will be opening the event tonight, Friday 13 December 2019 at Royal Brighton Yacht Club before racing starts on Monday, 16 December 2019. The final race and medal race is scheduled for Saturday, 21 December 2019.

Other Australians contesting the event are up and coming Finn sailors Jock Calvert from Tasmania, Lewis Brake from Queensland as well as Lachlan Gilham from Western Australia. They are part of over 20 Australian Finn sailors, who will be contesting the event and making the most of their opportunity to race against the world's best on home waters.

Daily media releases and VNRs will be send out at the end of each day from Monday, 16 December 2019.

For more information see 2019.finngoldcup.org and www.finnclass.org.

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