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First sailors confirmed for Paris Olympic Games

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A young and exciting initial sailing squad has today been named to the New Zealand Team for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, with five sailors selected to compete in four sailing classes.

Tom Saunders (ILCA 7), Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson (Nacra 17), and Veerle ten Have and Josh Armit (iQFOIL) were officially selected at a function at Wakatere Boating Club on Auckland's North Shore this morning.

Of the initial sailing selection, only Nacra 17 sailors Wilkinson and Dawson have previous Olympic experience, with the pair having competed in the mixed multihull at Tokyo 2020. Further crews will be considered for selection to the New Zealand Team following a series of upcoming competitions.

Armit and ten Have are set to represent New Zealand in the exciting new discipline of iQFOIL (windfoiling) and will reach speeds of up to 50kph as they compete off the coast of Marseille, where the Olympic sailing competition will be held.

"Representing New Zealand on the biggest stage is incredibly exciting and it took me a few days to process the news," said ten Have.

"Making the team is only one step, however, and now it's all about performing in Marseille."

Ten Have, 23, has established herself among the leading female windfoilers in the world, despite only sailing in the class for a little over two years. She won bronze at last year's season-opening World Cup in Spain and finished sixth at the Olympic test event in Marseille in July.

"Being a part of the New Zealand Team and seeing the level of support around the athletes is awesome," ten Have said.

"We won't be in the Olympic village in Paris with many of the other New Zealand athletes, but I can already feel the sense of togetherness among the group and that is something we will all be relying on to lift our performances."


Tom Saunders, Micah Wilkinson, Josh Armit, Erica Dawson and Veerle ten Have have been named in the New Zealand Team for the Paris Olympic Games. Photos / NZOC

Twenty-two-year-old Armit, meanwhile, enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2023, finishing in the top 10 in several key European regattas, with his seventh at the combined sailing world championships in The Hague in August a highlight.

"It's a really cool event," said Armit. "We're flying above the water now with these foils and I just love the speed and freedom of it, it's a really exciting sport."

While ten Have and Armit are relatively new to their classes, Saunders has been one of the world's leading ILCA 7 (formerly Laser) sailors for much of the past decade.

In 2021, he became only the second Kiwi - and the first since Nik Burfoot in 1994 - to win the class world championships with his triumph in Barcelona.

Saunders, whose brother Jason represented New Zealand at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, will make his Olympic debut in Marseille.

"There's a definite sense of pride and relief to be selected after three Olympic cycles - 12 full years of campaigning," the 31-year-old Tauranga sailor said.

"To be part of a bigger team and to represent our country along with top athletes from other sports is very special and something that I will be embracing. Winning a medal is what we've been working toward for a long time, and I know I have the potential to get on that podium in France."

Wilkinson, 28, and Dawson, 29, have been sailing together since 2019 and had their first taste of the Olympics in Tokyo, finishing just outside the top 10 despite Dawson breaking her leg in a training accident only a month out from the showpiece.

NZOC CEO Nicki Nicol extended her congratulations to the athletes.

"We're really pleased to have named these exciting athletes to our Olympic team," said Nicol.

"It's great to have a mix of youth of experience in this initial squad and we look forward to growing this team with further selections in the coming months."

New Zealand has a proud Olympic sailing legacy, having collected 23 medals since the first won by Peter Mander and Jack Cropp at Melbourne in 1956.

Sailing at Paris 2024 is due to get underway in Marseille on July 28th and conclude on August 8th.