Sailors Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox have earned selection to the New Zealand Team for next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games, where they will compete in the men’s 470.
The pair are the first athletes selected to the New Zealand Team since Covid-19 forced the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games, which are now scheduled to take place from July 23 to August 8, 2021.
The pair were formally selected to the team today at Auckland’s Wakatere Boating Club, Snow-Hansen’s home club.
Snow-Hansen and Willcox are experienced campaigners, with Tokyo to be Snow-Hansen’s third Olympic Games and Willcox’s second.
“In a year with so much uncertainty, it’s awesome to have that confirmation which will allow us to focus on the Games and our goal of winning a medal for New Zealand,” Snow-Hansen said.
"Every Olympics is special and I’m just as happy to be selected this time around as any other time. It’s awesome to be able to tell our friends and family and take a moment to celebrate.”
Snow-Hansen was fifth in the men’s 470 at the 2012 London Olympics with Jason Saunders before teaming up with Willcox in 2013 and going on to finish 10th in Rio in 2016.
The pair are presently fourth in the men’s 470 world rankings and are former 470 world championship silver medallists and last year won the World Cup Series regatta in Genoa.
Snow-Hansen and Willcox have been training regularly off the coast of Tutukaka along with the rest of the NZL Sailing Team as they search for conditions similar to what they expect at the Olympic venue in Enoshima.
NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith named the athletes to the team and presented them with a silver fern which is the symbol of the New Zealand Team.
“We're on a new path to the Olympic Games and today's naming marks an important milestone as we move forward with purpose,” said Smith.
“The IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee are making real progress on the reorganisation of the Games and the return of sporting events around the world is demonstrating that sport can be organised safely under ongoing Covid restrictions.
"Our athletes are preparing for the new dates and we will be adjusting our planning to ensure they have everything they need to succeed in the Covid Games environment.
“Congratulations to both Paul and Dan, we wish you all the best with the rest of your preparation.”
The selection of Willcox and Snow-Hansen brings the number of New Zealand sailors confirmed for the Games to nine, as the pair join Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (49er), Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (49erFX), Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson (Nacra 17) and Sam Meech (Laser) who were all named to the team in March.
New Zealand has a proud Olympic sailing legacy, having collected 22 medals since the first won by Peter Mander and Jack Cropp (lightweight Sharpie, gold medal) at Melbourne in 1956. New Zealand brought home a record-equalling four sailing medals from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The overall New Zealand Team now stands at 14 athletes, with around 200 expected to be selected in what is likely to be New Zealand’s largest ever Olympic team.