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Yachting NZ Announces an Olympic Sailing Squad

Yachting New Zealand Announces an Olympic Sailing Squad

Yachting New Zealand has today announced an Olympic Sailing Squad. Nine sailors in six classes have been named in the Squad who will work towards selection and then medal contention in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The naming of the Squad comes at the same time as board sailing legend Barbara Kendall has announced her intention to campaign the new Olympic windsurfer for 2008.

The Squad includes:
Barbara Kendall - Neil Pryde RS:X
Andrew Murdoch - Laser
Jo Aleh - Laser Radial
Dan Slater - Finn
Sharon Ferris, Raynor Smeal & Ashley Holtum - Yngling
Aaron McIntosh & Bruce Kendall - Tornado

The announcement of a small Olympic Squad is a new move from Yachting New Zealand who to date has supported a larger group of sailors in their sailing Academy. Yachting New Zealand policy for selection into the squad is primarily based on competition performance and was published on Monday.

While the Academy continues it is the sailors that have achieved significant recent results and demonstrate medal potential that have been identified for selection into the Olympic squad and will be coached and supported by Yachting New Zealand's Olympic Director Rod Davis. The Squad members named today have been selected based on recent performance or medal winning potential, and they must continue current form to stay.

Reforms at Yachting New Zealand have followed a disappointing performance in Athens last year. Davis was appointed as Olympic Director in May this year and has created a new Olympic sailing plan with the single-minded aim of winning medals. Olympic medal prospects are now identified early, then paired up with coaches and detailed programmes that will get the very best out of them.

SPARC funding for the Yachting New Zealand Olympic campaign was confirmed in early October based on the Olympic plan put together by Yachting New Zealand. The significant backing demonstrates that SPARC has the belief in the renewed vision at Yachting New Zealand to restore the sport to its former Olympic greatness. Yachting remains this country's most successful Olympic sport with a history of 15 medals since 1956, and the challenge is to retain that status.

"Yachting New Zealand has taken a strategic and focused approach to our quest for Olympic medals in China," says Davis. "The Olympic Squad will comprise sailors who have performed at the top at World or European championships in Olympic classes, and must similarly perform each year to stay on the Olympic Squad."

Andrew Murdoch, Sharon Ferris and her crew, Dan Slater and Aaron McIntosh have all recorded World Championship results that have caught the Davis attention. Two medals in 2005 went to Murdoch, winning bronze in the Laser World Champs, and to Ferris and the Yngling team, winning silver at the Worlds. Both Slater and McIntosh placed sixth in their respective World Championships classes, Slater also winning silver in the Finn European Championships. McIntosh has since teamed with fellow Olympic medallist Bruce Kendall to create a Tornado team with huge potential. Jo Aleh placed ninth in the Laser Radial European Championships in August this year.

Barbara Kendall will be back into training soon after the birth of her second daughter. She is named in the Squad and has the full support of Davis based on her Olympic history.

"A top ten performance in a world championship is a signal to both the sailor and Yachting New Zealand that an Olympic medal is possible, and consistent performance makes that outcome more probable," says Davis. "Yachting New Zealand wants to do everything within its power to help that sailor stand on the Olympic podium. Olympic Squad sailors will receive funding, and most importantly, at the corner-stone of Yachting New Zealand's program, is coaching."

"The sailors will have coordinated coaching to work towards the skill and speed necessary for success in Quingdao, sailing site of the 2008 Olympic Games. The best coaches available will work with our sailors together with me as Olympic Director, to correct weaknesses. This will be a three season build-up to the final goal: Olympic Medals."

The three-season program will ramp up the skills and qualities essential to succeed in the medal quest. This potential medal squad will campaign in Europe, home to our toughest competition. They will also train in Asia, replicating conditions anticipated at the Olympic sailing venue, Quingdao.

Yachting New Zealand appointed Des Brennan as Chief Executive in February this year. He describes the thinking behind the changes in the Olympic programme;

"We can no longer be all things to all people when it comes to the Olympics. Our focus has narrowed to winning medals. In order to do that we have designed a program that prepares every element and phase of our Olympic Squad. It is a dual programme for success in the short term at the 2008 Olympic Games, and one which will lift our performance bar for the future. I can confirm that we have candidates appropriate to our goals in seven of the eleven Olympic classes. We will campaign on these."

"Competition is intensifying," says Brennan "driven by increasing investment and more countries participating professionally. Governments, global media and global businesses all see advantage in the elevation of international sporting achievement. There is national pride on one hand and global viewers, provided by unique and compelling programme content, on the other. The Olympic Games is at the pinnacle of all of this. We want to get back there - hence our slogan towards renewed greatness."

Competition for New Zealand's Olympic class sailors takes place predominantly in the northern hemisphere. Davis will decide early which regattas the Olympic Squad sailors should be targeting to put them on track for Beijing and will pay close attention to ensure that they are sufficiently prepared. World class coaches and international training partners will be used to fine-tune performance and gauge progress.


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