Sailing: Tobin confident Olympic spot is his

By Dana Johannsen

Jon Paul Tobin. File photo / Greg Bowker
Jon Paul Tobin. File photo / Greg Bowker

Kiwi boardsailor Jon Paul Tobin believes he has done enough to oust Beijing gold medallist Tom Ashley in the race for the sole New Zealand spot in the RS:X class at next year's Olympics.

Tobin has edged the defending Olympic champion in three head-to-head meetings this year, the most significant of which was at the weekend, when he finished fifth to Ashley's sixth at the world sailing championships in Perth.

This should place Tobin in the box seat for Olympic nomination, but there is the possibility the selectors may force the pair to continue their battle next year.

Yachting New Zealand will name its first nominees for next year's Olympics at a function at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron tomorrow, and it has been suggested the national body may hold off naming a candidate in the highly contentious RS:X class.

While Yachting New Zealand took the unusual step of keeping their selection criteria confidential, it is believed the selectors had highlighted three key events this year in which sailors needed to perform: Sail for Gold in June, the Olympic test regatta in Weymouth in August and this month's world championships.

A confidentiality agreement with Yachting New Zealand prevents Tobin from outlining what he needs to do to earn selection, but he believes he has met all the requirements.

Tobin outshone Ashley at the Sail for Gold regatta, finishing second while Ashley could manage only ninth. That earned 34-year-old Tobin the nod for the sole New Zealand berth in the pre-Olympic regatta. He then followed that up with a strong showing in Perth last week, despite battling a painful foot injury after a run-in with a poisonous fish the day before the opening race.

"Based on what the selection regattas have put in front of us I've done everything that has been asked of me, so I hope that will be enough. It is up to the selectors to decide how they are going to proceed from here," said Tobin.

But with Yachting New Zealand's selection criteria having been described as highly subjective, leaving the selectors with a lot of discretion, it may not be that straightforward for Tobin to displace the defending Olympic champion.

The selectors could give Ashley further opportunity to stake his claim at the RS:X world championships in Spain in March - a situation Tobin said could be detrimental to his performance at the Olympics.

"I would hope it wouldn't [drag in to next year] because it kind of affects the lead-in to the Olympics as well. I've got my programme pretty much mapped out and to peak in March and then have to peak again in August is a very tough timeframe to work to."

Despite his creditable fifth-place finish, Tobin believes he could have done better were it not for a late setback.

Tobin was fortunate to even make the startline in Perth after standing on a poisonous cobbler fish the day before racing was due to begin.

"The spine is actually still in my foot because if they had to operate and take it out, it would have meant stitches and basically a plane flight home, so I just went on antibiotics and tried to manage the pain the best I could," he said.

While Tobin will be anxiously awaiting a call from the selectors today, one pair who can be confident they have booked their ticket to London are Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, who picked up a silver medal in the 49er class at the weekend.

Others tipped to join the youngsters as the first members of an expected 200-strong New Zealand Olympic team tomorrow are Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie, bronze medallists in the women's 470. Andrew Murdoch's bronze medal performance at the weekend now makes the selection decisions in the highly competitive Laser fleet clear cut.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 03 Sep 2014 14:54:28 Processing Time: 390ms