4 Mar 2020

Seven sailors selected for Olympics

8:07 am on 4 March 2020

The first of New Zealand's athletes for this year's Olympics have been announced with seven sailors selected for Tokyo.

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke 49er 2020 world champs.

Burling and Tuke Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The sailing team has significant Olympic Games experience and includes Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, who led the New Zealand Team into the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and went on to win gold in the 49er.

Rio 2016 49erFX silver medallists Alex Maloney and Molly Meech have also been named, as well as Rio 2016 Laser bronze medallist Sam Meech.

Nacra 17 sailors Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson are the only Olympic newcomers in the initial sailing selection announcement, with further crews to be considered for selection to the New Zealand Team following a series of upcoming World Championships.

New Zealand has a proud Olympic sailing legacy, having collected 22 medals since the first gold won by Peter Mander and Jack Cropp in the Sharpie class in Melbourne in 1956.

Wilkinson and Dawson admit they've been buzzing since finding out they had earned selection in the Nacra 17 class.

The pair have been sailing the foiling catamaran together for only nine months and showed their potential when finishing seventh at last month's Nacra 17 world championships in Geelong.

"We are just so excited to get this opportunity to go to the Olympic Games and show everyone what we are made of," Dawson said.

"Wearing the silver fern means so much to us personally but we are also excited to wear it for our families and supporters who have believed in us all these years.

"We've both watched the Olympic Games on TV and seen our friends and peers compete so for us to get this opportunity is really special. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us to make sure we're in the best shape possible at Games time."

New Zealand's Sam Meech after winning bronze in the Laser Class during at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Sam Meech Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Sam Meech was among the medallists in Rio and has been one of the world's best Laser sailors over the past four years. The 28-year-old is excited to be given the opportunity to represent New Zealand at a second Olympic Games.

"It's so cool to represent your country," he said. "We do so many regattas but the Olympic Games is special because it feels like you're sailing for more than yourself.

"I didn't really know what to expect in Rio. I tried talking to a number of people to get an idea of what it was going to be like but you never really know until you experience it. There's so much going on outside of the sailing and I can't wait to experience it again."

Burling and Tuke will be among the favourites to win gold in the 49er in Tokyo having added two 49er world titles in recent months to the four they won in the last Olympic cycle.

The pair, who took a couple of years off the Olympic class to sail in both the America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race, also won last year's OIympic Test Event at the Olympic venue in Enoshima.