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World Champions' big sacrifice for Olympic ambition

by David Sygall on 10 Sep 10 September 2017
Gold for Australia's Natasha Bryant and Annie Wilmot on day 4 of the Aon Youth Worlds in Auckland © Pedro Martinez / Sailing Energy / World Sailing

Australia's reigning Youth World Champions in the 29er class, Natasha Bryant and Annie Wilmot, have announced they will forfeit their title defence to concentrate exclusively on pursuing a coveted place on the Australian Sailing Team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Bryant and Wilmot said they had "mixed emotions" about withdrawing from the 2017 Youth Sailing World Championship in Sanya, China in December. However, qualifying for the next Olympic campaign sailing 49erFX skiffs demanded their singular focus.

"We aspired to compete again to attempt to defend our youth title in Sanya, but it's become clear to us that our ultimate goal to represent Australia in Tokyo requires our total time and dedication," the pair told Australian Sailing.

"For the last three years we've aimed high and worked incredibly hard to qualify and represent Australia in the Youth Worlds. It was a goal that shaped every decision we made in our lives. Our Gold Medal, memories and friendships that were created will stay with us for a lifetime."

The Sydney duo's commitment to strive for Olympic representation was applauded by Australian Sailing Performance Director Peter Conde.

"It's no small decision to forgo a Youth World Championship and step into something of the unknown," said Conde, the architect of Australia's sailing success at the past three Olympics.

"But Tash and Annie have indicated that they are willing to put in the very hard work required to reach their goal. I look forward to watching their progress."

Bryant and Wilmot proved the world's best junior 29er sailors when they captured the World Championship in New Zealand last year with a race in hand.

Their departure from the junior ranks opens a place for Tasmanian pair Jasmin Galbraith and Chloe Fisher, who finished second to Bryant and Wilmot at the 2017 Australian Youth Championships. It also leads to mentoring changes, with Richard Scarr joining the Australian Youth Sailing Team as coach and Belinda Stowell-Brett as Team Leader.

"We are grateful for Australian Sailing's understanding in this matter and would like to thank our parents, sponsors, supporters, friends, coaches, trainers and everyone else who has helped us along the way," Bryant and Wilmot said.

"We look forward to sharing our greater challenge ahead with you all."

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