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Tokyo2020: Double America's Cup champions have a tilt at the last Olympic Gold for the Finn

by Michael Brown/Yachting New Zealand 18 Jul 14:23 BST
Josh Junior (NZL) - Finn Gold Cup - Porto, Portugal - May 2021 © Robert Deaves / Finn Class

Josh Junior doesn't need to look very far to be reminded of how significant it was for him to earn Olympic selection.

Sitting not too far away, often on the coach boat following him around, will be best mate and current Finn world champion Andy Maloney who will be Junior's coach at these Games.

The pair have achieved spectacular results since deciding to work closely together following the 2017 America's Cup, with Junior winning the Finn Gold Cup in 2019 and Maloney matching that feat earlier this year.

Junior was third at this year's Finn Gold Cup which, on top of his win two years earlier, saw him edge Maloney for the one spot allowed for each country at these Olympics.

"It is amazing to be selected for the Olympics," Junior said. "It’s a real honour. But in saying that, Andy and I never really went into it with that thought. It was about both of us improving and both of us being as good as we could.

"Whoever got the nod would have done really well so I feel really honoured to be selected. It’s pretty exciting to be back here. We haven’t been here for a few years now but it’s all pretty familiar and the weather has been bloody stunning so far. I can’t wait."

He will start as one of the favourites in the heavyweight dinghy when racing gets under way on July 27.

A relatively small fleet of 19 Finn sailors will line up in Enoshima. To put that in perspective, it's not uncommon to have 70 boats on the start line at a regular regatta, but consistent scoring will still be critical across the 10 qualifying races before the top-10 medal race.

That's something Junior has become very good at and he's a much better and more experienced sailor than the one who finished seventh at his first Olympics in Rio in 2016.

"Working with Andy, we have become a lot more well-rounded, both of us," he said. "I think we have learned to sail the boats fast and, working together, we can continually improve that. Being fast is always good, as well as being tactically smart and fit. We have pushed hard and hopefully that comes good.

"It feels pretty comfortable being at the Olympics. The New Zealand team is really well set up with good accommodation and everything is pretty easy. It should just be like any other regatta.

"It’s awesome to have Andy coaching, which is probably the biggest difference [from last time]. We have had a lead-in regatta and have experienced that now. It’s just going to be about executing what you know."

Junior and Maloney were the last to join the New Zealand sailing team in Japan, joining from Europe where they have been based for the last three months.

They remained in Portugal after the Finn Gold Cup before a short stint in Italy for the second round of SailGP and then relocated to Santander in Spain to resume training.

"It’s pretty hard to travel in and out of New Zealand with the whole Covid thing, so Andy and I decided to base ourselves in Europe," Junior said. "It’s been really good, actually.

"It’s been good to check in with the fleet and see where we needed to improve. We just continued to push hard and prepare for the Olympics. We are ready and we are excited."

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