Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Sailor bails on Rio Olympics over funds row

NZ faces missing windsurfing event which has netted seven medals.
JP Tobin says he's had "zero support other than a couple of bits of lycra". Photo / Richard Robinson
JP Tobin says he's had "zero support other than a couple of bits of lycra". Photo / Richard Robinson

New Zealand faces going to the Rio Olympics without a competitor in one of our most successful events in a row over funding.

Windsurfer JP Tobin gained New Zealand a spot for Brazil, but has since withdrawn, saying he cannot afford to go after receiving "zero support other than a couple of bits of lycra".

And he says the female hope for the event - Natalia Kosinska - is unlikely to make it and has been forced to sell her gear just to get to regattas.

It means not entering an athlete for the first time in more than 30 years in an event which has netted seven medals. Tobin has launched a stunning broadside at Yachting New Zealand, accusing the national body of turning its back on its windsurfing programme - easily the country's most successful Olympic class.

"As we currently sit it is looking like New Zealand won't be represented in the windsurfing and that pisses me off," Tobin said.

"We have a long history and legacy in this sport and it has not been given the support that it requires."

Yachting NZ will on Monday announce the first batch of sailors heading to Rio, but, for the first time since windsurfing became an Olympic event in 1984 there won't be a men's or women's RS:X representative among them.

While a second group of sailors will be confirmed in May, Tobin says there is little hope Kosinska will make the grade before the selection cut-off.

"I was the only male windsurf rep on the team and the only one that was actually campaigning with any intention, but I received little to no support," said Tobin, who finished seventh at the London Games four years ago.

"We're all after the same thing and that's medals for New Zealand, but it almost feels like you are battling an organisation that is supposed to be facilitating."

Tobin, like many other top names in NZ windsurfing, has now moved on to coaching and is helping Kosinska with her campaign where he can.

The Polish-born Kosinska has gained New Zealand a berth in the women's RS:X class, but she has not met Yachting NZ's strict funding criteria, so has been left to go it alone with her bid to get to Rio.

The Weekend Herald was unable to contact Kosinska last night.

Kiwi medallists include Bruce and Barbara Kendall and Tom Ashley, who won gold in 2008. Yachting is a Tier 1 sport - second only to rowing and cycling - under High Performance Sport NZ's Olympic criteria, meaning it received $12,450,000 for Rio.

"It's been very frustrating trying to get what I see as a very small percentage of the overall budget for the New Zealand Olympic sailing team directed to a class that has such a proud tradition and history and has the potential to continue," Tobin said.

Yachting NZ chief executive David Abercrombie made no apologies for its strict funding criteria.

"This is public money ... we can't make arbitrary rules left, right and centre for every class." Abercrombie said he would be disappointed if NZ was not in all 10 classes in Rio, and the door was not yet closed on Kosinska.

"There are a couple of World Cup regattas left, such as Palma [Spain] and Hyeres [France] so it's not a dead duck yet. If Natalia can demonstrate to selectors she is worthy of a place then I'm sure she'll be looked at."

The absence of a funded programme in New Zealand has seen some of the country's top coaches head overseas, with double Olympic medallist Bruce Kendall coaching in Hong Kong, Ashley in China, while bronze medallist Aaron McIntosh is helping out with the Dutch team.

Tobin said the windsurfing programme needed an urgent overhaul.

"We have the expertise, we have some brilliant minds in the sport, but at the moment they're ... helping other countries win medals."

- NZ Herald

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