30 Sep 2020

More sailors added to New Zealand Olympic team

5:57 pm on 30 September 2020

The New Zealand Olympic Committee is forging ahead with selections - believing they are on track to announce the largest New Zealand team - even if the athletes can not travel overseas to qualifying events.

Men's 470 crew of Dan Willcox and Paul Snow-Hansen named in New Zealand Olympic team for Tokyo Olympics.

Dan Willcox and Paul Snow-Hansen have been named in the New Zealand Olympic team. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Sailors Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox are the first New Zealand athletes since the onset of Covid-19 to be selected for next year's Olympic Games.

It will be the 470 sailors second Olympics as a pairing after they competed in Rio four years ago where they finished 10th.

The Auckland duo know first-hand how the coronavirus can effect an Olympic campaign after they were forced to flee Italy a day before a qualifying event.

"We went over there just focussing on competing and then as the situation unfolded we quickly got out of there and left all our gear just on the beach, it's been a long process getting our campaign back on track," Snow-Hansen said.

NZOC CEO - Kereyn Smith.

New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive Kereyn Smith. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive Kereyn Smith said the delay of the Games was hard on those who had already qualified as well as those athletes who had their qualifying plans thrown into disarray.

"It's been difficult with the uncertainty for athletes and sports to have confidence in the fact that the Olympics are going to go ahead," Smith said.

"We've had really strong signals for some time now but it's hard to really contemplate that and believe it till you feel it, and so today for us I think is a real milestone on that new pathway and for these athletes in particular gives them a great sense of certainty that they can then move forward with their planning as well."

The current New Zealand Olympic team stands at 14 athletes, including sailors, canoe slalom racers, shooters and a taekwondo athlete.

Smith still expected that to grow to around 240 athletes before the Games - which would be the biggest team in New Zealand history.

But she admitted New Zealand athletes' attendance at rescheduled qualifying events isn't set in stone.

"There's still around 40 places that might be available and those events, in order to secure that qualification and standard, are ahead of us.

"Typically most of them are falling into the early part of 2021, so there is still some uncertainty around that and around travel to those events."

It's not just athletes who are chasing Olympic selection that are contemplating international competition before the Games.

Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox 470 sailors.

470 sailors Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox have qualified for their second Olympics as a team. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Willcox's Olympic spot is locked in but he does not know if they will get the boat out on international waters to gauge how competitive they will be in Japan.

"It's all a little unknown, we do have a world champs at this stage penciled in for March next year in Portugal, so we'll find out closer to the time if that's going to happen or not but during this time we're just focussed on what we can do here in New Zealand and making the most of it," Willcox said.

Snow-Hansen and Willcox have been training regularly off the coast of Tutukaka along with the rest of the New Zealand sailing team as they search for conditions similar to what they expect at the Olympic venue in Enoshima.

With the Olympic team growing and the event less than 300 days away Smith was confident the Games would go ahead at the rescheduled date of 23 July to 8 August.

"There's no signals we won't the IOC are certainly planning towards that with real commitment and we're seeing evidence more and more of those arrangements coming through," Smith said.

"It's a different sporting environment and the event will be a different event, of course athlete safety is the main and paramount concern and we need to be adaptable."