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  • State trio sailing into games berths

    2018 - 07.06

    THREE Tasmanian sailors have positioned themselves perfectly for a tilt at Olympic or Paralympic selection.

    The Australian sailing team has named 13 Olympic and six Paralympic class athletes aiming to secure 2016 selection for Rio de Janeiro in the upcoming world sailing season.

    The list includes Amelia Catt in the women’s two-person dinghy 470 and prospective Paralympians Matt Bugg and Neil Patterson in the one-person keelboat 2.4mR.

    Tasmanian Institute of Sport sports programs manager Carl Saunder said the Hobart trio would need to meet assorted criteria to secure spots.

    ‘‘We’re very well positioned with about 500 days to go,’’ he said.

    ‘‘Matt is seen as a potential podium athlete in the Paralympics while Amelia is well on the way to qualifying for a spot.’’

    The reigning national champ in his class and a London Paralympian, Bugg, 34, is in a prime position to compete in Rio, having already qualified the boat at last year’s world championships.

    The Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania member is about to head to Europe to compete in a series of sailing races plus the Olympic test event.

    ‘‘He is the No.1 Australian athlete in that class and barring injury or illness would be expected to win that spot for the Paralympics,’’ Saunder said.

    With Melbourne-based Patterson targeting the same spot, he is seen as a longer-term candidate although the future of Paralympic sailing from 2016 onwards remains unclear.

    Catt, 22, and her skipper, Sasha Ryan, of Queensland, will attempt to qualify their boat at the world championships in Haifa, Israel, in October, or the Oceania champs in Australia a couple of months later.

    ‘‘If they were to qualify the boat, they would then be in pole position to retain their spots for the Games,’’ Saunder added.

    Coached by 2008 Olympic gold medallist Nathan Wilmot and based at the national training centre in Sydney, Catt and Ryan will be sailing in the 470 class at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia in Spain this weekend.

    ‘‘It’s been great working with the 470 women and our aim is to get them to the top of the fleet,’’ Wilmot said.

    ‘‘There is a lot of talent in the teams and it is an exciting time to be involved.’’

    Tasmania’s only previous Olympic representative in sailing was David Connor at Seoul in 1988.

    Australia is seeking to retain its status as the most successful sailing nation at the 2012 Olympics.

    Matt Bugg (right) sailing against Richard Fisher and Lisa Blackwood in the 2.4mR class at this year’s Bellerive Regatta. Picture: PETER CAMPBELL

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