Bay athletes claim 9 of 15 NZ medals

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New Zealand's Lisa Carrington celebrates heir bronze medal afar the women's kayak single 500m final during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. AP Photo/Matt York
New Zealand's Lisa Carrington celebrates heir bronze medal afar the women's kayak single 500m final during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. AP Photo/Matt York

Bay of Plenty born or trained athletes have claimed nine of the 15 Olympic medals New Zealand has received at this year's Olympic Games.

Tauranga sailor Peter Burling, with his sailing partner Blair Tuke claimed gold, fellow Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club sailor Sam Meech received a bronze and his younger sister won silver.

Mahe Drysdale again claimed gold in the men's single sculls and Tauranga-born Lisa Carrington claimed her second consecutive gold in the K1 200 metre canoe sprint.

Luuka Jones got her first medal when she came second in the canoe slalom, after being ranked 27th in the world before the games and Tauranga-based Kelly Brazier was among the Women's Sevens team, coached by Tauranga's Sean Horan, who claimed a silver.

Rotorua-born Valerie Adams claimed her third Olympic medal at the games.

Another medal for the Bay remained a possibility last night with the Black Sticks, including Tauranga players Gemma Flynn, Samantha Charlton and Rose Keddell, still to compete in the bronze medal match this morning.

Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club commodore Nick Wrinch joked there must be "something in the water" that was contributing to the success of so many Bay athletes.

Mr Wrinch said yesterday had been a morning from heaven.

"It's beyond words, it's beyond description what they have achieved," he said speaking to the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend yesterday from the club.

"What's in the water? It hasn't happened over night. The bulk of the work has been going into these guys over the last 15 years as they have learnt to sail and gone through the ranks."

Tauranga was a good harbour to learn on, he said. "There is a lot of variation, a lot of tide.

"But without doubt we have had a group of exceptional sailor's come through the rank here and their success is due to a whole lot of effort from different people over those years. Right from the day they started, to their coaches now.

"They have achieved so much, four Olympic participants from the Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club at this Olympic regatta is fantastic."

Peter Burling, Sam and Molly Meech and Jason Saunders all hail from the club on Sulphur Point.

Mr Wrinch said there were plenty of up-and-coming sailor's going through the club that could qualify for the 2020 Olympics but would not speculate on exactly who this early on.

Mr Wrinch said Burling's form had been outstanding over the last four years.

"But anything can happen in these regattas, the tides, wind, equipment can break, you're tired or there are minor wrong calls in your judgement. Those guys that go to these events are exceptional. You don't get to go unless you are good but if you make a mistake there are always people there to take the glory from you.

"We dared to hope for Peter and Blair but we have never taken anything for granted."

Mr Wrinch said the club's Olympians had all grown up in a very supportive environment.

Immediate past commodore Nigel Rippey said there was a really good culture in the club created by Burling, the Meech's and Saunders going through as a group which had resulted in world class athletes.

"To be one of the most successful yacht clubs in the country, we have put a stamp on that now.

"All of our guys have made history this year breaking records and making history for Tauranga Yacht Club.

"You can't get much better with what we have got."

Peter Burling's mother Heather Burling, speaking to the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend from Rio, said she was incredibly proud.

"They crushed it this week. To have gone out and finished that medal race the way they did. We know what they are capable of but fairy tales don't always come true. They have worked their butts off for it and we are incredibly proud of them for it.

"We are incredibly proud of the whole team, to have Tauranga sailors who all went to school together and got a first, second, third and a fourth between them is amazing.

"We have known these kids since they were eight. They all learnt to sail together and at the end of it they get three Olympic medals and a fourth. It's absolutely amazing."

Richard Burling said it was relief watching his son's last race for the games because they were guaranteed the gold medal.

"They had a really good race as well, so it put the icing on the cake. We are really proud of what they have done. They have worked so hard."

Mr Burling was a bit apprehensive when Peter got into his first meets at this year's Olympics.

"We live the ups and the downs of the racing. Every time they start a new regatta we all start a fresh too."

Molly and Sam Meech's father Simon Meech, also speaking from Rio, said he and his wife were very nervous watching their races.

"They worked really hard, you hope they do enough to do themselves justice but you still worry about it and you still want to see them to do well."

Seeing his children on the podium was four years of hard work coming to fruition, he said.

"It's a time when you think all that hard work has been worth while."

Tauranga Boy's College principal Robert Mangan said he continued to be absolutely delighted.

"I think that both Peter and Mahe were expected to perform at that level, but for Sam and Jason to come through, that was a revelation.

"It's great for the school."

Lisa Carrington revealed four successive days of top-flight competition - comprising six races - had been taxing, mentally as much as physically.

Coming down from the high of gold was the hardest challenge, she said

"There's a lot of contrast of emotions and feelings and nerves. To just line up today, I'm personally going to be proud of that.

"And it was a tough race. It was pure determination in the end and just trying harder and harder to squeeze everything out that I had."

Carrington still makes history, becoming the first New Zealand woman to win two Olympic medals at the same Games.

She also joins shot putter Valerie Adams and board sailor Barbara Kendall in a group of three Kiwi women to own three Olympic medals.

Tauranga City Mayor Stuart Crosby said there would "definitely" be a celebration for the athletes on their return home.

Putting on the parade would be quite simple, but it was about making sure they got hold of the athletes, he said.

"We will certainly be doing our best to get them here."

Mr Crosby said the country had excelled as a nation.

"It goes all the way back to sport systems and structures from youth to all the way to senior level.

"It's the good processes in place, good facilities," he said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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