New Zealand had one of its most memorable days in Olympic sailing today.
Laser sailor Sam Meech came through under pressure to win a bronze medal, 49er men Blair Tuke and Peter Burling sewed up the gold medal in their event with the medal race to come, 49er women Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie fought back so well that they are in second place going into their medal race and Molly Meech and Alex Maloney in the 470 women got themselves into a position where even a gold medal is within their reach in the medal race. The nacra mixed team of Gennma Jones and Jason Saunders won their medal race and finished fourth overall.
Sam Meech was third going into his medal race and sailed cleverly for fourth. He finished with 85 points, behind American Tim Burton on 73 and Croatia’s Tonci Stipanovic on 75. Meech, watched by an excited band of supporters, including his parents, finished just clear of Brazilian favourite Robert Scheidt on 89.
“I'm speechless at the moment,” he said soon after finishing. “I knew I had a good chance going into today.”
“Tom [Burton] was out in front so I was just trying to stay clear of him. I was in a pretty good position the whole race.”
Meech said he had had to battle hard with Andy Maloney to earn the laser berth for New Zealand.
“I had a really good battle with Andy just for the spot. He just pushed me along for the last five to six years, just racing each other.”
Burling and Tuke have looked a class apart in the 49ers. Their placings of 1, 1, 5, 2, 7, 6, 2, 3, 1, 3, 5, 4 illustrate not only their class but their consistency.
The silver medallists from London in 2012 have not put a foot wrong and have 33 points overall, well clear of Germany on 67 and Australia on 70. Sailors know they are dominating when they can go to an Olympics and have a seventh as their worst performance.
Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie, the defending Olympic 470 champions, did all they could today to keep themselves in contention. They had placings of 1, 1, 4 and going into their medal race have lifted themselves into second place. They have had a difficult regatta with two disqualifications. In other races they have been the standout team. It seems unlikely they will catch Great Britain’s Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark in the medal race, though nothing is sure. Slovenia, the United States, France and Japan are all chasing the New Zealanders hard for a medal.
New Zealand’s nacre mixed team of Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders wrapped up their event in fine style with a victory, but it was not quite enough to get them among the medals. They finished fourth on 81 points, three points behind the third-placed Austrians.
The women’s 49ers, Molly Meech and Alex Maloney, had placings of 3, 5, 5 today to leave themselves fourth going into their medal race. It is so tight among the top four – Spain, Brazil, Denmark and New Zealand – with one point separating them that the final race is basically a match race.
Finn sailor Josh Junior finished his campaign on a bright note with a good fourth placing in his medal race, placing him seventh overall on 93 points. Briton Giles Scott on 36 points was the runaway winner of the event.
The New Zealand 470 men struggled somewhat with placings of 13, 10, 17 today. They are 11th going into their medal race.
Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games Gemma Jones Jason Saunders Paul Snow-Hansen Daniel Willcox Molly Meech Alexandra Maloney Peter Burling Blair Tuke Sam Meech Josh Junior Jo Aleh Polly Powrie Sailing