New Zealand will have a team of three sailors at October’s Youth Olympic Games in Argentina, following the selections of boardsailors Max van der Zalm and Veerle ten Have and kiteboarder Pia Gordon.
The sailing at Buenos Aires will feature three classes and casts a nod to the future of the sport with kiteboarding (IKA twin tip racing) and a catamaran (Nacra 15) joining boardsailing (Techno 293+). Kiteboarding is likely to be confirmed later this year on the programme for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
The 2018 Youth Olympic Games will be the third summer youth Games, following those in Singapore in 2010 and Nanjing in 2014. The Games are a pre-elite development opportunity for the world's most promising young athletes, allowing them to experience a multi-sport games environment while exposing them to learning and cultural opportunities.
The New Zealand Olympic Committee this week confirmed the selection of the trio, who will look to win New Zealand’s first medals in sailing at a Youth Olympics.
Van der Zalm, 18, and ten Have, 17, qualified spots for New Zealand when they won their divisions at January’s Oceania championships in Brisbane. Gordon, 17, qualified from the Oceania kiteboarding championships in Thailand in March.
The Youth Olympic Games will cap off a busy few months for Tauranga-based athletes van der Zalm (Aquinas College) and ten Have (Te Kura).
The pair are presently in France competing in the RS:X youth world championships and will then travel to the United States to compete in the upcoming youth sailing world championships.
Ten Have will then return to Europe for the sailing world championships in Denmark where New Zealand’s top sailors have their first chance to qualify boats for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The Olympics is on the agenda for both van der Zalm and ten Have but the Youth Olympics is their first ambition.
“The level in the sport is so high but I believe a realistic goal is top five [in Buenos Aires],” van der Zalm said. “I want to be in the top and fighting for a medal.
“I am looking forward to the entire experience, from meeting new friends to being involved in one of the biggest competitions in the world.”
Van der Zalm has made good strides over the past 18 months and was inside the top 10 at last year’s youth sailing world championships in China in his first major international regatta.
Ten Have finished 15th at last year’s youth sailing world championships and she and van der Zalm are excited three-time Olympic boardsailing medallist Barbara Kendall will be leading the New Zealand team to Buenos Aires as Chef de Mission.
Gordon was born in New Zealand and now lives in Australia but has spent most of her life in Thailand after moving there at the age of six. She’s presently training in Thailand and will have another training stint in Sri Lanka before tackling the open kiteboarding world championships in Italy.
Gordon has been kiting since 2013 and competes in freestyle, wakestyle and racing, with racing to be the format to feature at the Youth Olympic Games.
NZOC chief executive Kereyn Smith extended her congratulations to the athletes on their selection.
“I’m very pleased to welcome these three athletes to the team,” she said. “They’ve put in a lot of work to get to this point and I know they’ll be working hard to be at her best for the Youth Olympic Games.
“It’s also very exciting to have a kiteboarder selected to the New Zealand team as the sport debuts on the Olympic stage. We look forward to watching these athletes compete in Buenos Aires in October.”
The Youth Olympic Games run from October 6–18, 2018, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.