Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox have earned selection to the New Zealand team for next year’s Tokyo Olympics, where they will compete in the men’s 470.
The pair are the first athletes added to the New Zealand team since the postponement due to Covid-19 of the Tokyo Games, which are now scheduled to take place next year from July 23 to August 8. They were formerly announced today at the Wakatere Boating Club, Snow-Hansen’s home club, when they were presented with a silver fern by New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive Kereyn Smith.
Their selection brings to nine the number of sailors so far confirmed for the Games, joining Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (49er), Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (49erFX), Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson (Nacra 17) and Sam Meech (Laser) who were all named in the squad in March.
The overall New Zealand team now stands at 14, and about 200 are expected to be selected in what is likely to be New Zealand’s largest ever Olympic team.
Snow-Hansen and Willcox bring a lot of experience to the mix, and this will be Snow-Hansen’s third Olympics and Willcox’s second.
Snow-Hansen was fifth in the men’s 470 at the 2012 London Olympics with Jason Saunders before teaming up with Willcox in 2013 and going on to finish 10th in Rio in 2016.
The pair, who are coached by Geoff Woolley, are presently fourth in the men’s 470 world rankings and are former 470 world championships silver medallists and last year won the World Cup Series regatta in Genoa.
Snow-Hansen and Willcox have been training regularly off the coast of Tutukaka along with the rest of the NZL Sailing Team as they search for conditions similar to what they expect at the Olympic venue in Enoshima.
Snow-Hansen said the pair were thrilled to be named in the Olympic team.
“In a year with so much uncertainty, it’s awesome to have that confirmation which will allow us to focus on the Games and our goal of winning a medal for New Zealand,” Snow-Hansen said. "Every Olympics is special and I’m just as happy to be selected this time around as any other time. It’s awesome to be able to tell our friends and family and take a moment to celebrate.”
New Zealand has a proud Olympic sailing legacy, having collected 22 medals since the first won by Peter Mander and Jack Cropp (lightweight Sharpie, gold medal) at Melbourne in 1956. New Zealand sailors also secured gold at Tokyo 1964 (Halmer Pedersen and Earle Wells in the Flying Dutchman) and brought home a record-equalling four medals from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
“We're on a new path to the Olympic Games and today's naming marks an important milestone as we move forward with purpose,” Smith said.
“The IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee are making real progress on the reorganisation of the Games and the return of sporting events around the world is demonstrating that sport can be organised safely under ongoing Covid restrictions.
"Our athletes are preparing for the new dates and we will be adjusting our planning to ensure they have everything they need to succeed in the Covid Games environment.
“Congratulations to both Paul and Dan. We wish you all the best with the rest of your preparation.”
- Pic: Dan Willcox, left, and Paul Snow-Hansen, pictured with their coach Geoff Woolley, were today named in the New Zealand Olympic team. Photo: Sailing Energy / World Sailing.