Olympics: Sailors win NZ's 100th Olympic medal

By Michael Brown

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke had already sewn up a silver medal two days ago in sailing's 49er class and didn't really know whether to celebrate given they still have one race this morning (NZT).

They made sure they celebrated it today. The pair not only won New Zealand's first sailing medal at these Games and first in anything other than a windsurfer since 1992 but also won New Zealand's 100th Olympic medal.

Nick Willis might have dreamed of achieving that feat in yesterday's 1500m, and New Zealand's flag bearer for the London Olympics and a competitor in an event that has so much to do with this country's history would have been an appropriate recipient, but that honour has now gone to a 21-year-old from Tauranga and 23-year-old from Kerikeri.

Burling and Tuke immediately embraced upon crossing the finishing line today, jumped into the water soon after and sprayed the champagne around when they hit shore. To top it off, they also received their medals later in the day from Barbara Kendall, a three-time Olympic medallist and New Zealand's most successful female Olympian.

"Today was the day when we really had the smile on our face,'' Tuke said. "It was a really weird feeling and we got put in a weird situation two days ago.

We didn't think we would have it locked in by then. We had a couple of celebrations but today is going to be a lot better. It's starting to sink in.''

So is the fact they collected such a milestone medal. Tuke read about the looming figure on the internet before the final race but didn't know if it would be them because he wasn't sure who else from New Zealand was competing today.

"It's just amazing,'' Tuke said. "So many great people have won medals for New Zealand in the past and to be alongside them is pretty special. To be the actual 100th ones is quite crazy. We are quite proud.''

They have sailed a very good regatta but it would have taken something special to beat Australia's Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen. The pair, who are also Burling and Tuke's training partners and good friends, have won the world title three out of the last four years and dominated skiff racing in recent times.

Today's race had little on it for the top two crews. Burling and Tuke couldn't catch the Australians but also couldn't be overtaken by any of the six countries challenging for bronze.

Their placings would have a huge bearing on third, however, so Burling and Tuke made sure they kept out of the way and sailed as well as they could. They were second, with Australia fourth.

"We are normally pretty relaxed out on the water,'' Burling said. ``We went into today with the same game plan. We obviously wanted to put on a good show and try to win the race. We gave it a good crack and the Austrians [who won] obviously had a good one, too.''

Their silver was also the 17th won by sailing at the Olympics, keeping them in touch with rowing and athletics. New Zealand have also guaranteed themselves another at these Games with Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie joint leaders with Great Britain in the women's 470s heading into Friday night's (NZT) double points medal race.

- APNZ

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