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Para sailing has been snubbed by the International Paralympic Committee for the 2028 Games in Los Angeles. Photo / Sailability Auckland

Para sailing's Games snub 'setback for sport'

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Sailing’s continued absence from the Paralympic Games is a blow but won’t detract from efforts to grow the sport in New Zealand. 

That’s the view of former Paralympian and leading disability sailing figure Tim Dempsey, following the International Paralympic Committee (IPC)’s decision to not reinstate the sport at the Los Angeles Games in 2028. 

Para sailing last featured at the quadrennial showpiece in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, where New Zealand’s Andrew May, Richard Dodson and Chris Sharp finished fourth in the Sonar class.

On Tuesday, the IPC announced it would not return in Los Angeles after earlier also excluding it from Paris 2024. 

Dempsey, the sailing coordinator at Sailability Auckland, said the announcement was met with "widespread disappointment", given World Sailing’s increased development of infrastructure and resources through its Para Sailing Development Program (PDP) launched in 2017.  

“Para sailing is definitely a different-looking sports organisation to what it was in 2016 and they have done a lot to increase the numbers of countries that are participating in sailing,” Dempsey said. 

“I think it was really just a case of too many sports applying for too few spaces and unfortunately, we missed out again. It is going to be a long, hard battle to get back in - considering no Paralympic sport has ever been reinstated.”

In a statement, World Sailing said the IPC decision was “extremely disappointing” but vowed to continue supporting Para sailing across the globe. 

"We fully respect the verdict of the IPC and recognise the difficulty the IPC Board faced throughout this process. However, we must also acknowledge that this is an extremely disappointing day for our whole sport and, in particular, for Para sailors around the world,” chief executive David Graham said. 

“Despite this setback, our commitment to our Para sailors, to the continued growth of Para sailing, and to the wider Para sport movement will only grow stronger. 

Domestically the sport has gone from strength to strength, Dempsey said. 

“It's a setback, from the top down to the grassroots, but here [in New Zealand] we really just got on with sailing and have tried to build the numbers. 

"We're seeing more and more numbers coming through, thanks to the hard work of the individual Sailability groups in their respective areas…and getting more groups set up will also help. 

“At the end of the day, very few people get to go to the Paralympics sailing. The best thing we can do is just to keep sailing and growing the sport in New Zealand and, who knows, maybe we’ll get back in for Australia (Brisbane 2032).”

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