Sailing siblings ocean upbringing

By Daniel Gilhooly

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Olympic medalists Sam Meech and his sister Molly were brought up sailing the world but say that is not the reason for their success. PHOTO/FILE
Olympic medalists Sam Meech and his sister Molly were brought up sailing the world but say that is not the reason for their success. PHOTO/FILE

Sibling sailors Sam and Molly Meech insist a unique ocean upbringing wasn't the reason for their Olympic success.

The Tauranga pair will leave Rio with a medal each - Molly a silver in the 49erFX class and Sam a bronze in the Laser.

It almost seems a pre-ordained outcome given the pair's childhood.

They spent nearly a decade being raised on their parents' cruising yacht, only becoming landlubbers in New Zealand when it was time to start college.

However, 25-year-old Sam scotches a suggestion their upbringing set them on a pathway to success at the maiden Olympic appearance for both.

"I wouldn't say it was our destiny to come to an Olympics," he told NZ Newswire.

"But the way we grew up has definitely influenced what we do now.

"It's made us love the ocean and sailing. It's been a massive thing for us."

Parents Deb and Simon purchased the yacht when their two children were toddlers.

They spent about two years in the mid-1990s cruising off the Northland coast, with Simon working as a locum.

The time was then right to set sail for England, taking in lengthy stopovers in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

At one stage Simon contracted dengue fever, leaving Deb and the children in charge of sailing.

Later, pirates were a threat when they sailed through the parts of the Middle East, while some of the ocean crossings were equally hairy because of the weather.

"At the time, a lot of people said it wasn't the right thing for us to be doing as a family because we were so young," Molly said.

"But I would disagree completely. What an amazing way to come into the world and see everything, and I think it's really shaped who we are as people."

Molly's crewmate Alex Maloney did a similar thing, spending about three years of her youth in a family yacht, mostly sailing throughout the Pacific.

Molly, 23, says while her memory of the period is hazy, she enjoys looking at photos and hearing stories about their family adventures.

She and Sam both studied by correspondence and bonded as brother and sister, which made the Rio experience more special.

"It was awesome to see his dream (Olympic medal) had come true. I was so stoked for him," she said.

"Being so close and stuck on the ocean for weeks on end, Sam and I became great friends. He's an amazing support for me."

The Meech's are the third set of Kiwi siblings to win Olympic medals.

The others are rowing twins Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell and sailboarders Bruce and Barbara Kendall.

The bulk of New Zealand's medal-winning Olympians return home today and celebrations will be in full swing.

About 170 members of the Olympic team, including more than 20 medal winners, were due to fly into Auckland early this morning.

This includes double Olympic champion canoe sprinter Lisa Carrington, gold medal-winning rowers Hamish Bond, Eric Murray and Mahe Drysdale, gold medal-winning sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, and the silver medal-winning women's sevens team.

The Olympians were expected to be in the Auckland International Airport arrival area by about 6am and would then head into the central city for the ANZ Welcome Home celebration at The Cloud on Queens Wharf from 9am to 10am.

A street parade has already been organised for Burling and Tuke in Kerikeri on Friday afternoon.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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