Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Rio Olympics 2016: Sam Meech secures Olympic bronze in Laser class

Sam Meech has claimed New Zealand's first sailing medal of the Rio Olympics, taking out bronze in the Laser class this morning.

Ranked in third position heading into the doubles points medal race, Meech needed to finish inside the top five to guarantee himself a medal.

The young Kiwi delivered, finishing fourth in a dramatic medal race to hold off some top international competition chasing him down and become the first New Zealander to win a medal in the highly competitive Laser class. The Laser class is the biggest fleet at the Olympics, with 46 sailors competing.

Australian Tom Burton, who was ranked in the silver medal position, claimed the gold after a masterful tactical performance, making up the 10-points gap on Croatia's Tonci Stipanovic, who had to settle for silver.With plenty of jockeying for position in the fleet, Meech showed impressive composure to ensure he maintained his podium spot.

Meech is well accustomed to sailing under pressure. He faced intense competition to earn selection in the New Zealand team for Rio, with the 26-year-old locked in a head-to-head battle with his close friend Andy Maloney for just one spot.

At this time last year Maloney was considered the front-runner for the spot, with Yachting New Zealand opting to send him to the test event in Rio last year.

But Meech produced an impressive run of results over the European regatta season to secure his first Olympic appearance.

Meech's younger sister Molly is also appearing in her first Olympics, contesting the 49erFX alongside Alex Maloney - Andy's sister.

Molly Meech was out on another race course completing their third race of the day while her brother battled it out for bronze - and her performances today ensured she is a good chance of joining her brother in the ranks of Olympic medallist. Meech and Maloney are ranked second in the high performance skiff class with one race remaining before Friday's medal race.

New Zealand have a remote chance of securing further medals in the sailing today, with Josh Junior contesting the medal race in the Finn class, while Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders are through to the decider in the Nacra 17 class.

Final standings in Laser class
1. Tom Burton (AUS) 73
2. Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) 75
3. Sam Meech (NZL) 85
4. Robert Scheidt (BRA) 89
5. Jean Baptiste Bernaz (FRA) 86
6. Nick Thompson (GBR) 103
7. Pavlos Kontides (CYP) 104
8. Juan Ignacio Maegli Aguero (GUA) 117
9. Rutger van Schaardenburg )NED) 118
10. Julio Alsogaray (ARG) 129

- NZ Herald

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