Blog by Micheal Warren

The New Zealand Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020 continues to take shape after nine crews qualified at the Rowing World Champs and New Zealand also qualified three crews at the World Canoeing Champs. The New Zealand women's hockey team also qualified for Tokyo after beating Australia at the Oceania Cup in Rockhampton. The men's team will face South Korea in a two-match series in Stratford in November to qualify for the Olympic Games. Surfing also gained qualification spots through Ella Williams and Billy Stairmand and we have a busy few months of qualification ahead!

New Zealand at the Olympic Games: Sailing

The focus of this month’s blog is on the sport of sailing. Sailing is New Zealand’s third most successful sport at the Olympic Games, winning 22 medals, including nine gold. New Zealand’s first foray into Olympic sailing was at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, and it would be a golden start to New Zealand’s ongoing participation. Jack Mander and Peter Cropp competed in the Sharpie class.

Eight years later, in Tokyo, New Zealand once again stood at the top of the podium. This time Helmer Pedersen and Earle Wells won gold in the Flying Dutchman Class. Sailing was held at Enoshima, the same location where sailing will be held at the 2020 Olympics.

1964 Wells Pedersen 3

It would take from 1964 to 1984 for New Zealand to reach the podium in sailing. The sailing events were held off Long Beach in Los Angeles, and New Zealand struck double gold. In the finn class, Russell Coutts took out the gold medal, and in the tornado class Rex Sellers and Chris Timms were completely dominant they didn’t need to sail their last race. Bruce Kendall also won bronze in the windglider class.

For years later in Seoul, New Zealand was once again in the medals, with Bruce Kendall upgrading his Los Angeles bronze to Seoul gold. Sellers and Timms were back in the medals, winning silver in the tornado class, and John Cutler won bronze in the men's finn class.

Four years later the Kendalls were back on top of the podium. This time Bruce Kendalls sister Barbara became New Zealand’s first female Olympic champion since Yvette Willians in 1952 when she won gold in the women's Lechner class. Rod Davies and Don Cowie won silver in the star class, Jan Shearer and Leslie Egnot won silver in the women's 470 class, and Craig Monk won bronze in the men's finn class.

Barbara Kendall  was back amongst the medals in Atlanta in 1996 backing up her gold medal in Barcelona with a silver in Atlanta. Four years later in Sydney, Barabara became the rainbow girl winning her third Olympic medal, this time a bronze. Aaron McIntosh also won bronze in the men’s mistral competition.

Athens in 2004 was a disappointment for the sailing team, failing to win a medal for the first time since 1980. New Zealand’s best result was a fifth-place by Barbara Kendall.

Sailing was held in Qingdao for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, where New Zealand won their first sailing gold since Barcelona with Tom Ashley winning gold in men’s RSX class.


Weymouth played host to the 2012 Olympic sailing competition, and the ever-reliable sailing team once again delivered the goods. Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie beat the home town favourites to win gold in the women’s 470 and Peter Burling, and Blair Tuke began to cement their names in the international sailing arena, winning silver in the 49er class.

By the time Rio 2016 came around, Burling and Tuke, and Aleh and Powrie were household names in the New Zealand sailing team. This time they swapped their medals won four years earlier, with Burling and Tuke winning the 49er class and Aleh and Powrie winning silver in the women’s 470. New Zealand also won silver in the 49erFX class to Molly Meech and Alex Maloney and Molly Meech’s broth Sam won bronze in the men’s laser class.

More medal opportunities will be available for New Zealand in Tokyo in 2020 with Burling and Tuke set to compete in the 49er class. Gold in Tokyo will make Burling and Tuke the first New Zealanders to defend their Olympic title in sailing, and after winning the test event in Tokyo few would bet against them repeating this.

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