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Five double-handed crews named in opening Olympic Sailing Selections 

On 14 March the first sailing selections to the New Zealand Olympic Team to Rio 2016 were named at a beach-side announcement at Auckland’s Wakatere Boating Club.

Both New Zealand’s London 2012 sailing medallist crews are among the starting line-up for Rio 2016 which includes ten sailors to compete in five events.

The announcement by the New Zealand Olympic Team included five women and five men, and more Olympic sailing selections are expected to be announced over the coming months.

Three crews named have medalled at their respective 2016 World Championships including a fourth consecutive title defence in the 49er class for Peter Burling and Blair Tuke who have now gone unbeaten since winning silver at London 2012.

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The five sailing crews named are:

Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie – Women’s 470 (women’s double-handed dinghy)

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke – 49er (men’s skiff)

Alexandra Maloney and Molly Meech – 49erFX (women’s skiff) 

Paul Snow-Hansen and Daniel Willcox – Men’s 470 (men’s double-handed dinghy)

Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders – Nacra 17 (mixed gender multihull)

London 2012 gold medallists Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie (women’s 470), and London 2012 silver medallists Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (49er skiff) return to the New Zealand Olympic Team  to spearhead the sailing contingent.

Two crews announced will sail in events which are new to the Olympic sailing programme – the women’s skiff (49erFX) and the mixed gender multihull (Nacra 17).

New Zealand Olympic Committee CEO Kereyn Smith said sailing was traditionally a strong Olympic sport which brought the nation together. “I am delighted to welcome the ten sailors to the New Zealand Olympic Team to Rio,” she said.

“They have worked tirelessly to earn their selection to the team and I know New Zealanders will be inspired by their performances at Rio.”

Yachting New Zealand’s High Performance Director Jez Fanstone is delighted that the NZOC has officially selected this group of sailors. He says, “This first sailing selection announcement is an exciting milestone for us on the road to Rio.”

“The NZL Sailing Team sailors all started out at grass roots yacht clubs around the country and with commitment, dedication and drive have risen to be world class athletes; they work hard in the gym, train long hours on the water and are supported by great coaches.”

Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie, known as Team Jolly, won Olympic gold at London 2012 and head to Rio 2016 ready to take on the Rio venue as a new challenge, having prepared for the past three years to give the very best performance they can in Brazil.

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The pair, who are coached by Nathan Handley, have won five World Championship medals in the women’s 470 class including a silver at the 2016 470 World Championships in February in Argentina. This will be Aleh’s third Olympic Games, and Powrie’s second.

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke’s silver medal at London 2012 was New Zealand’s 100th Olympic medal. Since then the men’s skiff pair have gone unbeaten at all the major 49er class regattas they’ve attended with an unprecedented string of 24 wins in a row including four consecutive world titles.

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Burling and Tuke, who are coached by Hamish Willcox, were named ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year in 2015. 

Alexandra (Alex) Maloney and Molly Meech will represent New Zealand in the women’s skiff event which makes its Olympic debut in 2016.

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Both the women are first time Olympians, but have proven they’re among the best in the world after winning the 2013 49erFX World Championships and more recently taking victory at 2016 Sailing World Cup Miami Regatta in January. Maloney and Meech are coached by Jim Maloney.

Paul Snow-Hansen and Daniel Willcox have been named in the Men’s 470 class. This will be Snow-Hansen’s second Olympic Games having sailed at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the same discipline, with Jason Saunders as crew, finishing 5th overall.

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Snow-Hansen and Willcox achieved a career best performance at the 2016 Men’s 470 World Championships held in Argentina in February with a silver medal.

Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders will represent New Zealand in the second event to be included in the Olympic sailing regatta for the first time – the mixed gender multihull contested in the Nacra 17. They are coached by Jez Fanstone.

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After Saunder’s first Olympic appearance at London 2012 in the Men’s 470 he made the move into the multihull partnering with Jones for a crack at Rio 2016. For Jones, who is at the helm of the fast and furious catamaran, Rio 2016 will be her first Olympic Games.

CEO of High Performance Sport New Zealand Alex Baumann also congratulated the sailors confirmed in the New Zealand team for Rio.

“Over the past few years, New Zealand sailing has enjoyed an unprecedented period of sustained success, with medal performances at all the major championships. That’s testament to the amazing efforts of the athletes, their coaches and the many support staff that make it possible. I would like to congratulate all of the sailors selected,” said Baumann.

The five selections means that New Zealand will be represented in all five double-handed Olympic events. Men and women campaigning in the single-handed disciplines aiming for selection to the New Zealand Olympic Team to Rio 2016 remain under close observation of Yachting New Zealand Selectors at recent and forthcoming regattas.

The next major international regatta to feature a strong squad of NZL Sailing Team sailors will be 2016 Sailing World Cup Hyeres, in France where racing gets underway on 27 April and runs until 1 May.

New Zealand’s first Olympic medal in sailing was gold and won at Melbourne 1956 in the Lightweight Sharpie class by Peter Mander and Jack Cropp. In total New Zealand has won 18 Olympic medals in sailing including eight gold, five silver and five bronze.

Barcelona 1992 was New Zealand’s most successful Olympic Games in sailing with four medals in total including gold for Barbara Kendall (women’s windsurfing), silvers for both Leslie Egnot and Jan Shearer (women’s 470), and Rod Davis and Don Cowie (Star), and bronze for Craig Monk (Finn).

The Olympic Sailing Regatta will take place 8 – 19 August 2016 across six course areas situated on Guanabara Bay and outside the Rio harbour entrance. The event base is Marina da Gloria in Guanabara Bay beneath the stunning Rio landscape, with well-known features Sugarloaf Mountain and the Christ the Redeemer statue providing the back-drop.

The sailing team brings the New Zealand Olympic Team to Rio to 42, comprising Andrea Hewitt (triathlon) and 31 rowers.

Rio 2016 Peter Burling Blair Tuke Alexandra Maloney Molly Meech Jason Saunders Gemma Jones Paul Snow-Hansen Daniel Willcox Jo Aleh Polly Powrie Sailing
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