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Australia announces Olympic test event team

by Australian Sailing Team 12 Jun 2023 22:23 PDT 9-16 July 2023
Matt Wearn © Sailing Energy

Australia has announced its 12-strong group of sailors set to represent the nation at this year's Paris 2024 Test Event, which is set to take place at the Olympic venue from 9-16 July.

The team will be looking to parlay a successful European summer into medals in Marseilles and is packed with a mix of Olympic medallists and some of the most exciting emerging sailors in the country.

"Our selected Team is an exciting mix of Olympians, Olympic Medallists and athletes targeting their first Games with some competing in events that are on the Olympic program for the first time," said Australian Sailing High Performance Director Iain Brambell OLY.

"It's especially exciting to be announcing this team after they had a solid start to the 2023 international season and knowing so many required top-level performances to edge out other Australian crews for the honour of competing at the Test Event. It is this level of intra-squad competition that is the cornerstone that underpins the Australian Sailing Team's performance advantage."

The Test Event is a major milestone on the path to Paris, with athletes competing at the Olympic venue under the same format they will encounter at next year's Games.

The team will be spearheaded by Tokyo 2020 gold medallist Matt Wearn OAM, who is looking to win again in the ILCA 7 next year.

"I am delighted to be selected to the Test Event team, which is a huge first step towards the Games," said Wearn.

The West Australian is looking forward to the challenge racing in the port city presents.

"Sailing-wise you get a great mix of light sea breezes along with some of the more moderate stuff. There are lots of seawalls in a tight bay, so there is plenty of chop bouncing back off them making it quite different to the offshore stuff we are used to."

Among those experiencing Olympic-like conditions for the first time is fellow WAIS athlete Zoe Thomson, selected in the ILCA 6 class.

"I am super happy to have been selected. I am excited to learn about the venue, and to learn from the rest of the team," said Thomson.

Thomson produced a breakout international performance when she claimed Silver at this year's Trofeo Princesa Sofia regatta in Palma and is looking forward to being part of the smaller team heading to the Test Event.

"There is so much experience and plenty of Olympic medals in the team, so I am keen to learn from them on the water and around the venue. We don't always get to be around other members of the team as we (ILCA 6 squad) are sometimes isolated, so it is great to be competing alongside them."

The mix of youth and experience flows through the skiff selections, with emerging 49er pairing of Jim Colley and Shaun Conor being rewarded for their silver medal win at the Hyeres regatta. In the 49erFX class, Olivia Price returns 11 years after winning Silver in the Women's Match Racing at the London 2012 Olympics with her crew Evie Haseldine.

Australia will have representatives across the exciting new foiling classes, with Breiana Whitehead (Formula Kite - Female), and Grae Morris (iQFOiL - Male) selected for Marseilles. Hector Paturau was selected for the Team but has undergone surgery and will not be available as he focuses on his recovery. As a result, Scott Whitehead will replace Paturau within the Men's Formula Kite Class.

Perth's Nia Jerwood competed in Tokyo in the Women's 470, and she has been selected in the new Mixed 470 event with new crew Conor Nicholas.

Olympic veterans Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin were selected in the Nacra 17 class; however, Skipper Waterhouse has informed the team of his intention to step back from his 2024 Paris Olympic campaign effective immediately. After giving this cherished opportunity significant consideration, the Sydneysider decided the time was right for him to focus on his professional sailing career and family commitments. Darmanin will persevere with the continued goal of a second Olympic podium performance following the combination's Silver medal in Rio 2016 and their 5th place at the Tokyo games.

Given Waterhouse's decision the Selection Panel will take further time to review Australia's Nacra 17 selection for the Olympic Test Event, with a view towards securing Olympic qualification in the class at the 2023 Sailing World Championships in August.

Brambell reflected that, "We were very sorry to hear Jason's decision to step back from Olympic campaigning, but greatly appreciate and respect his decision. The Australian Sailing Team will look to celebrate Jason and his immense contributions to the team in the very near future; however, our number one priority is now to confirm the best possible selection for the Olympic Test Event, as a key stepping stone to Olympic qualification on route to a podium performance in Paris 2024."

Brambell understands the importance of the event on the path to Paris 2024.

"The Olympic Test Event is an opportunity to investigate and experience the conditions on the waters of Marseille in competition mode. The athletes, coaches and performance support team will utilise this opportunity to fully simulate our Games time off-water practices as well. It's essentially a full dress rehearsal in preparation for July 2024."

The eight-day regatta will be followed by the Allianz Sailing World Championships at The Hague in August, where a wider Australian team will take part.

The full Australian Team for the Olympic Test Event is:

49erFX: Olivia Price & Evie Haseldine
49er: Jim Colley & Shaun Conor
Formula Kite - Female: Breiana Whitehead
Formula Kite - Male: Scott Whitehead
ILCA 6: Zoe Thomson
ILCA 7: Matthew Wearn OAM
iQFOiL - Male: Grae Morris
Mixed 470: Nia Jerwood & Conor Nicholas
Nacra 17: TBC

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Twitter: @aussailingteam
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