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Three NI athletes get ready to battle it out for their place at Tokyo 2020

by Emma Blee 5 Mar 07:05 GMT
49er, 49erFX, Nacra 17 World Championships, Geelong , Australia © Jesus Renedo / Sailing Energy 14 September, 2017.

The countdown is on for three NI sailors who are campaigning for their place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

In sailing, nations can qualify in 10 Olympic disciplines but just one boat is eventually selected to represent each nation in each discipline. For the NI athletes, their last chance for a European place in the Finn, Laser and 49er fleets is up for grabs at the Sailing World Cup in Genoa next month.

The athletes, who have been training for over four years, as part of their Olympic campaigns, will take to the waters on 11 April to battle it out at the nine-day qualifying competition.

In the running is two-time Olympian and World Cup silver medallist, Ryan Seaton, from Carrickfergus. Seaton paired up with new crew Seafra Guilfoyle from Cork in the 49er class, following his 10th place finish with Matt McGovern at Rio in 2016.

McGovern is now coach to the Irish 49er teams, all vying for an Olympic place. Ryan and Seafra finished 10th at the Olympic Test event in Endoshima and recently finished 30th at the 2020 World Championships. They are embarking on a critical training phase in the lead up to the Olympic qualifier and subsequent European Championships in May.

Seaton comments: "Seafra and I have been training well and putting critical elements of speed and boat handling together over this winter period.

"Our focus has been to get more race practice and working under pressure to refine our performances and add consistency to a regatta week. We are looking forward to the challenge ahead and building up to the Championships in April."

Donaghadee Sailing Club's Oisin McClelland is another contender. Campaigning in the men's heavyweight Finn class since 2015, McClelland has secured a number of top 32 World and European finishes. In January he finished 4th in the Miami World Cup, just narrowly missing out on a Bronze medal.

McClelland comments: "Really nailing down all elements that make up a successful Olympic campaign was definitely difficult at the start but over time I have been able to get consistent and make big improvements.

"My motivation to sail everyday has been there since I was on the RYA Northern Ireland youth squads and I'm still waiting for that to wane. There is always something to improve or work on.

"I have been training hard and going well in my warm up regattas, I'm 100 per cent focused on Genoa and can't wait to get racing."

Ballyholme's Liam Glynn is also gearing up for the challenge in Genoa. Rising through the youth and u21 ranks, he has secured a world Junior title and u21 Bronze along the way. He recently achieved a personal best finish at the recent World Championships in Australia.

As part of the Irish Performance Laser squad, the Bangor sailor has been training hard, with a typical day including up to six hours of training, looking at racing skills and focusing on nutrition and recovery.

Commenting on his Olympic campaign so far, Glynn says: "I am motivated by my love of the sport, the feeling when you are in the zone and perfecting your technique and strategy amongst the best sailors in the world.

"I have had some good years with many gold fleet performances at senior regattas and a bronze medal at the 2018 Under 21 Worlds."

However, Glynn admits that it has also been tough. He says: "I have been doing a lot of mental training, mental rehearsal, meditation practice and also introducing focus activities into many of my workouts to try to limit distractions on the racecourse."

He adds: "I would say that I have grown throughout the journey, there are a lot of demands of being a high performance athlete but I feel like each year I have made new habits and improved on things that the lifestyle becomes very normal.

"I am excited for Genoa, this is my first Olympic campaign so I can look at the event with a little less pressure and just focus on giving my best performance. I have done some training over the winter in similar conditions and am really happy with my progress."

All three sailors graduated through the RYA Northern Ireland's Performance Pathway and are funded through Sport Northern Ireland. Seaton and Glynn are members of the Irish Performance Team.

RYA Northern Ireland's Chief Operating Officer, Richard Honeyford, is looking forward to supporting the sailors as they make their final preparations. He says: "For all three boats the focus is now on one event in April and for the final chance to secure their place at Tokyo 2020.

"All three have worked extremely hard during this Olympic cycle, with vast amounts of training, competing and travel to achieve their goal. At RYA Northern Ireland we are proud of how well they have applied themselves and their inspirational role as ambassadors for sailing in Northern Ireland.

We look forward to the sailing community supporting them as they undertake this final challenge for Olympic qualification."

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