Sam and Molly Meech open path to Olympics

A world championship medal slipped through Sam Meech’s fingers. Photo:

There’s still plenty of sailing to be done but Tauranga’s outstanding siblings Sam and Molly Meech have put themselves in a great position to make the 2020 Olympics.

The pair have done enough at the World Sailing Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, to qualify their boats - now it’s a matter of nailing down selection in the New Zealand team and winning the right to crew the boats at the Tokyo games.

The New Zealand team at the champs qualified six boats in total for the Olympics, but lucked out on the medals.

It could have been very different for Sam.

He had to settle for a fourth place finish in the Laser category after being in gold medal contention for much of the week.  He was fourth with visions of claiming at least a bronze heading into his penultimate start before Saturday’s medal race but a disqualification dropped him to fifth and out of serious contention.

Finishing second in the medal race was enough to bring him back up a place, but was no great consolation for the 2016 Rio bronze medallist who already has three silvers this year and topped the standings in Aarhus as the field entered the gold fleet racing.

He never recovered from coming home 34th in the first gold fleet race in a day of highly unpredictable conditions in the Danish second city.

"It’s my best worlds finish so I’m happy with that,” says Sam, “but I’ve felt this year I’ve had great form and had an opportunity to finish at least in the medals.

"I really came here trying my best to win.

"It hurts a little bit, especially after starting out so well. I had awesome form in the first three days and after that I just couldn’t get the shifts right. I guess I’ll have to come back and try again next year."

For sister Molly along with her partner Alex Maloney in the 49erFX the world champs were also an underwhelming experience, but as with Sam the main goal of Olympic qualification was reached.

With a win in the regatta prior to the worlds they were one of the favourite teams for the title, but events didn’t roll out the way they planned. A fifth in the medal race left them eighth overall, good enough to put the boat in Tokyo.

"It’s really cool to qualify New Zealand a spot in the 49erFX," says Molly. "It’s only two years to Tokyo so it’s exciting it’s all underway. The next thing is selection. It’s going to be an exciting couple of years."

The performance of Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn in qualifying the 49er boat for Tokyo may have Peter Burling starting to look over his shoulder leading into the Olympic team selection process.

The Tauranga sailing icon, Olympic and four-time world champion in the class along with partner Blair Tuke, looked nailed down for the spot in the boat in Tokyo. But with their seventh overall in Aarhus and third in the final medal race, along with strong performances leading up to the world champs, Dunning Beck and Gunn have done enough to suggest it’s no longer a foregone conclusion.

Classes qualified by New Zealand for the 2020 Olympics at the Aarhus world champs:

Laser (Sam Meech)

49erFX (Molly Meech and Alex Maloney)

49er (Logan Dunning Beck and Oscar Gunn)

Nacra 17 (Liv Mackay and Micah Wilkinson)

Finn (Josh Junior)

Men’s 470 (Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox)


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