By Roger McMillan.
Three more names have been added to the Australian Sailing Team for the Rio Olympics but two appeals have been lodged over the decision not to send a 49erFX team, and over the selection of the sailor to represent Australia in the Finn. No details have been released about the protests, but we believe we are correct in stating that Tess Lloyd and Caitlin Elks have been overlooked in the 49erFX despite recent performances that clearly showed they are the best of the three teams competing for the spot.
The 49erFX non-selection is sure to become an issue as there is a perception that Olivia Price and Eliza Solly have been heavily favoured by the AST, to the detriment of Lloyd and Elks. However, the latter pair has posted superior results over the past two years and deserves to go to the Games. They are ranked 13th in the world (Haylee Outteridge and Nina Curtis are 24th while Price and Solly are 35th) and would therefore seem a very good chance of a medal race spot in Rio. But the bottom line is that they needed to make a medal race at a major championship or World Cup to guarantee selection and they failed to do so, leaving the selectors with the option to not select them
In the Finn, Jake Lilley and Oliver Tweddell have been very difficult to split and at the most recent event, the Hyeres World Cup, they finished first and second. I have no information on this one, but assume that Jake has been selected, as he has slightly better results, but that Oliver has appealed.
It is unfortunate that these two appeals will dominate the discussion as we should be celebrating the selection of three young women, Jaime Ryan and Carrie Smith in the women's 470 and Ashley Stoddart in the Laser Radial. Here is the release from the AOC regarding their selection:
In the women’s 470 class, 21-year olds Ryan and Smith have gone from being fierce rivals to teammates and achieving their Olympic dream together after a serious illness to Smith. Ryan joins her brother Will on the Team to be the sixth set of siblings selected to date. Will was selected in the men’s 470 alongside London 2012 gold medallist Mathew Belcher last December.
Growing up in Newcastle, Ryan took up sailing at age 15 on Lake Macquarie, with her parents interested in the sport. She’s proud to be able to share this moment with her family.
“I think it’s the coolest thing that I get to be on tour with my brother. He’s been on the circuit for a few years more than me, and has been such a huge help in every part of my sailing over the years, there is no way I would be at this stage without him,” Ryan said.
“Seeing Will get selected definitely gave me the extra drive to get my ticket to be on the plane next to him. Partly because he is always the over achiever in the family, I have to do my best to keep up with him!”
Smith took up the sport when she was just two-years-old. Little did she know almost two decades later she’d be representing her country at the Olympics.
“It is very special to be attending our first Olympic Games. It's something I have dreamt about since I was a little kid receiving my first ever boat,” Smith said.
“I started sailing when I was very young so my aim was to just enjoy it and have fun… I've always enjoyed being out there and competing.”
The pair, who are coached by Olympic gold medallist Nathan Wilmot, were fierce rivals growing up competing in the 420 class but since pairing up two years ago have become a force to be reckoned with.
“Jaime and I were rivals in the youth classes which is very funny. We have good memories and I think that makes us stronger and bond more as a team, it made us better sailors and good friends so something to look back at now and have a laugh,” Smith said.
“There have been some tough times throughout the journey but I just remembered they make you stronger as an athlete and as a person so to keep learning and keep experiencing everything because in the end it will pay off.”
The duo struggled through part of 2014 and 2015 after Fremantle-born Smith was sidelined for around 12 months due to complications from stomach surgery. Not deterred from their Olympic dreams, they focused on training out of the water with theory study, research on venues and reading about strategy and boat set up, ultimately securing a quota spot for Australia in the class at last year’s World Championships.
“It honestly makes me extremely proud that I can look back at that horrible time and see the hard work and determination pay off. It would’ve been easy to give in but here we are and I'm only looking forward. Happy, healthy and sailing hard,” she said.
Stoddart, 22, who competes in the Laser Radial class, is excited to be heading back to the city where she competed at her first world event.
“To be told I will be competing in Rio and as my Olympic debut is extremely exciting and there is so much satisfaction in reaching a goal I have set for a long time now,” she said.
“I competed in the Olympic Test event in 2014, but prior to this I competed at my first ISAF Youth Worlds in 2009, in Buzios. I love the vibe of Brazil and Rio is such a vibrant city.”
Stoddart took up sailing at age seven and was inspired to continue in the sport after watching Australia win gold in the 470 eight years ago in Beijing.
“The Olympic dream for me was lit in 2008 when I watched Elise Rechichi and Tessa Parkinson win their gold medals in the women’s 470 in Beijing for Australia.
“They were young women achieving great things, with the biggest uncontainable smiles on their faces – jumping on the podium and I knew that there was something in me that could aspire for that greatness too.”
The three athletes selected today brings the total 2016 Australian Olympic Team size to 134 athletes from 11 sports, with the full team of around 440 athletes expected to finalised by mid-July. Complete biographies on all selected athletes here>>>
There have been appeals in both the Finn class and the 49er FX class. A further selection announcement is expected once the appeal process has concluded.