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Yachting NZ pushes back on Tokyo2020 performance criticism

by Yachting NZ 10 Aug 2021 22:42 PDT 11 August 2021
Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson (NZL), Nacra 17 - Tokyo2020 - Day 8- August 1, 2021 - Enoshima, Japan. © Richard Gladwell - Sail-World.com / Photosport

The New Zealand sailing team returned to New Zealand on August 7 from the Tokyo Olympics with mixed emotions following a challenging regatta.

The highlight was undoubtedly the silver medal won by Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, their third consecutive medal in the 49er class which saw them join Barbara Kendall as the only New Zealand sailors to collect three Olympic medals.

There were also a couple of near misses, with Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox only two points off bronze in the men's 470 and Josh Junior fifth in the Finn.

"The sailing venue on Sagami Bay was always going to provide tricky conditions, and it didn't disappoint," Yachting New Zealand high performance director Ian Stewart said. "Our sailors had prepared well, despite the challenges brought about by Covid, and came in with high expectations.

"We saw some clinical performances in classes and our sailors had their moments, however, inconsistencies cost points and our team will naturally go home with the feeling of what might have been. But we've got an outstanding group of people in our team and, although things might not have panned out, they've been exemplary in how they've conducted themselves and will bounce back stronger from this Olympic experience.

"We always conduct thorough reviews but now need to make sure we grow with the key lessons as we turn our full attention to the Paris Olympics."

The Paris Olympic cycle is just three years, following the postponement of the Tokyo Games by 12 months, which condenses the normal buildup.

Most of those in this year's sailing team will take some time to reflect and contemplate whether they commit to another Olympic cycle. The Tokyo team was very experienced, with only Nacra 17 sailors Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson competing at their first Games.

For Junior, the decision has already been made for him, with the Finn having been dropped from the Olympic programme for Paris. The option for Snow-Hansen and Willcox to sail together again has also been taken out of their hands with the men's and women's 470 reverting to a mixed class.

Filling the hole will be men's and women's kitefoiling, while the windsurfing will switch to men's and women's windfoiling, and these new events will provide opportunities for newcomers to earn selection to the NZL Sailing Team.

"We're excited about the new classes and look forward to our first international engagement in the windfoiling later this year," Stewart said. "We've already seen our kitefolilers succeed on the world stage and the windfoiling squad shows a lot of potential."

Covid-19 brought about significant challenges for the New Zealand sailors but also highlighted how much work could be done at home and the importance of depth within all classes to help with testing, development and internal competition.

The lack of international competition across all levels definitely took its toll but it also saw many of this country's top youth sailors fast track their progression into the Olympic classes and some of them will be ready to push for Olympic selection in 2024.

"We have decent depth and talent in our youth and development programmes and feel confident we're in a good place to ensure New Zealand's continued success on the international stage," Stewart said.

For earlier reports from stuff.co.nz click here and here

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