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Junior and Meech win Rio sailing spots

NZN 9/05/2016

Dinghy sailors Josh Junior and Sam Meech have won tense selection races to compete for New Zealand at the Rio Olympics.

Laser specialist Meech and Finn sailor Junior will both make their Games debuts in August.

They bring the Kiwi sailing team to 12 athletes in seven classes, with no selections made in the men's and women's RS:X classes or the women's Laser Radial.

Five double-handed crews were selected in March but the selectors wanted more time to assess the merits of the single-handed candidates.

Wellingtonian Junior, 26, saw off the challenge of two-time Olympian Andrew Murdoch, who contested the Laser class at the 2008 and 2012 Games.

Junior's form has been compelling, finishing fourth at the recent World Cup regatta in France while Murdoch was 12th. Junior snared gold at a another World Cup in Spain in April, heading off world champion Giles Scott of Great Britain.

Meech, 25, likewise won the nod ahead of proven Laser rival Andrew Maloney, with the Tauranga sailor securing a silver medal in France and a bronze at the World Cup regatta in Miami in January.

Meech's younger sister Molly has already been named to contest the 49erFX women's skiff class alongside Alexandra Maloney, who is the sister of Andrew.

The selectors deemed that 2012 Olympian Sara Winther hadn't shown enough form to earn a repeat selection in the Laser Radial class.

Leading women's RS:X hopeful Natalia Kosinska had also not done enough while men's RS:X sailor JP Tobin, who was seventh at the London Games, pulled out of contention for Rio in March citing a lack of support from Yachting New Zealand.

Yachting NZ high performance director Jez Fanstone says the level of competition in the Finn and Laser classes had lifted the performances of both Junior and Meech.

"These sailors have demonstrated, through their performances on the world stage, they're on track and in form to medal," he said.

"They have all done everything possible to reach the high standards required for selection to the New Zealand Olympic Team."

The Olympic sailing regatta will take place from August 8-19 across six course areas situated on Guanabara Bay and outside the Rio harbour entrance.

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