Olympics: Teamwork the key for Blair Tuke and Peter Burling

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Blair Tuke and Peter Burling after winning gold with two races to go. Photo / Photosport.nz
Blair Tuke and Peter Burling after winning gold with two races to go. Photo / Photosport.nz

It's not often a town can start planning a victory parade before the guest of honour has received his gold medal.

But when the medallist is Olympic sailor Blair Tuke, start Googling "ticker tape suppliers".

Tuke and his 49er sailing partner, Peter Burling, guaranteed themselves a gold medal on Tuesday, with two races remaining in the Olympic regatta

The pair's dominance has delighted Northland followers and left their Australian arch rivals, Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen, contemplating a scrap for the minor medals. At the 2012 Olympics, the Aussies were first and Tuke/Burling second.

Since then, the Kiwis have triumphed in every regatta bar the two-day South American championships a month out from the Games.

Tuke had later acknowledged the pair had been trying a few things out in the regatta, and weren't worried by the loss.

And while Tuke's Northland connection is well known, less publicised is Peter Burling's strong connection to Northland.

His parents hail from Whangarei, and his grand-parents, Judith and Bruce Burling, live in Kerikeri.

The delighted couple have been up early watching their grandson in Rio.

"At least it's a better time difference than when he races in Europe," said grandmother Judith.

Far North District Council Mayor John Carter said a parade and official welcome for the pair had been discussed in the past week.

Mr Carter was also keen to organise a parade and welcome in Kaikohe for Women's Sevens rugby player Portia Woodman.

Deputy principal of Kerikeri High School Daniel Wise taught Tuke during his time there.

"It's fair to say he was a lively lad," he mused. "But he is also a very nice guy."

Derry Godbert, a coach of Kerikeri High School's Sailing Programme, said the Tuke and Burling possessed a "magic" about their teamwork.

"The key to their success is how well they work together, there is a certain magic about it, and they both have huge family support as well."

Tuke did not, however, stand out to the coach as a sailor when he started with the programme at school.

"Blair is an exceptionally nice guy and he has great hand and eye co-ordination and a strong physical ability.

"His sailing prowess evolved."

Coach Godbert was also impressed with his organisational skills.

Tuke was just 18 when he headed a group of seven from New Zealand contesting the Youth World 420 Teams event in Perth, West Australia.

They emerged with a silver medal.

"His ability to pull all that together and organise it all at that young age shows how awesome he is both as a person and as a competitor," Godbert said.

- Northern Advocate

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