Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Road to Rio: Sailing siblings Sam and Molly Meech

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MEDAL PROSPECT: Sam Meech is a contender in the Laser class at Rio. PHOTO/FILE A_190914sp06bop
MEDAL PROSPECT: Sam Meech is a contender in the Laser class at Rio. PHOTO/FILE A_190914sp06bop

With Tauranga sailor Peter Burling given most of the attention ahead of the Rio Olympics it is easy to forget his former club mates growing up at Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club are medal prospects too.

Jason Saunders, with team mate Gemma Jones in the mixed gender multihull Nacra 17, and siblings Sam and Molly Meech are highly fancied in their respective divisions.

Sam, 25, and Molly, 23, lived their early lives on a boat in an upbringing that obviously led to a love of the water and sailing boats.

"Growing up on the boat we definitely like being around the water and on the water. We just love being on the ocean I guess and it has helped our sailing," Molly said.

By the time the then teenagers arrived in Mount Maunganui sailing was their major passion.

Success at age group regattas followed and with competition daily from the likes of Burling and the Saunders brothers the Olympics was always on the horizon.

"That competitiveness was hugely important," Sam said.

"I moved to Tauranga at just the right time and there was a fantastic group of sailors and that really got me into sailing a bit more than I was. It was something to look to improve on."

Rio holds no fears on or off the water for the Meech siblings as they prefer to focus on their task competing there rather than the negative headlines about crime, pollution and overcrowding.

"I quite enjoy Rio and I have been there a number of times now and haven't had any problems," Sam said.

"For me I just go there and do the sailing and look after myself as best as I can."

Sam is a solo sailor in the Laser class while Molly is teamed up with Alex Maloney in the women's Skiff 49er FX class.

They are both hopeful of making the victory podium but are not getting side tracked by focusing on the outcome at this early stage.

"I think I have a good chance if I go there and try to stick to my plan and sail how I need to," Sam said.

"Our fleet is really competitive. There are a number of guys who could medal and hopefully on the day I am one of them."

Molly and Alex won gold at the 2013 World Championships and have been at the forefront of major regattas ever since.

But Molly says a lot has changed in the sport since 2013.

"Going into Rio all our preparation over the last year and particularly the last few months has been really important," she said.

"I think we are in a good position heading in and we are quite happy with how our preparation has been."

The Rio sailing course is regarded as tricky and challenging by all those who have raced there.

Sam says the stunning natural terrain plays a part in that.

"There are huge mountains on either side which makes it very a spectacular harbour but for us that means quite shifty winds and on top of that it is very tidal.

"Yes it is a tricky course. We have the potential to get quite a variety of conditions which for me is quite good because I don't specialise in any area."

Molly agrees with her brother about the fickle nature of the course.

"We are really happy with how we have sailed in Rio and are excited about the venue because it is kind of tricky and is all about just taking it as it comes.

"The way we sail, the way we process things will hopefully work to our advantage."

Molly and Alex have been sailing together for five years which is crucial to building the trust and confidence needed to be champions.

"It is all about communication between the two of you and also just having fun with it," Molly said.

"The class we sail is a really cool and exciting class for girls to sail.

"We have a lot of fun at competitions and I think that factor is quite big in staying together and enjoying the journey we are on together as well as doing well."

Rio Olympics
August 5 - 21

- Bay of Plenty Times

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