Juggling university studies with Olympic ambitions can be tough ... just ask Hawke's Bay sailor Olivia Mackay.
"I'm just about to sit down with mum and dad now and plan how much study I might be able to fit in. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have to be the priority, I can always come back to university," Mackay said last night.
Mackay, 21, has a Prime Minister's scholarship and is in her fifth year of commerce and accounting studies at Auckland University. She is no stranger to fitting in her studies around international sailing commitments.
"I've only been able to do two or three papers each year and I do enjoy doing something else apart from sailing," the former Woodford House student said.
Mackay and her Nacra 17 crew Micah Wilkinson from Te Awamutu's Ngaroto Sailing Club were earlier this month selected in Yachting New Zealand's elite squad which will travel to August's combined world championships in Denmark.
"It was an unexpected surprise but something I've been aiming for since I was 17. It's pretty cool to be ticking everything off," Mackay said.
"There's another competitive Kiwi Nacra 17 team aiming for Tokyo too. We're pushing each other to be top of the world," Mackay said referring to Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders who were fourth at the Rio Olympics and at last year's Nacra world championships in France where Mackay and Wilkinson were 10th despite taking delivery of their catamaran just three days before the regatta started.
Napier Sailing Club member Mackay, who also coaches the sport when time allows, pointed out this year's world championships and other regattas are all about qualifying the country for Tokyo and next year there will be at least three qualification regattas which will determine which crew gets the nod for Tokyo. One of those regattas will be staged in Auckland and this schedule is expected to be announced later this month.
"We're really good friends with Gemma and Jason and I think we will have a really tight battle. We have a lot of respect for each other too ... it's really exciting times."
Before the Denmark world championships, which will involve all of the Olympic classes, Mackay and Wilkinson will compete at four international regattas - Spain in March, France in April, Germany in June and France again in July.
Earlier this month Mackay and Wilkinson competed in an Auckland-hosted regatta which attracted Danish and French crews which are both ranked among the top 10 in the world.
Mackay and Wilkinson won four of the seven races during the first two days but couldn't race on the third day after Wilkinson suffered a foot injury. One of the Danish sailors was also injured in the regatta.
Mackay will return to Auckland tomorrow to begin packing a container in preparation for their March 10 departure.
"It's good to be back in the Bay catching up with family and friends. One we leave next month we won't be back again until May so it's good to make the most of this planning time," she added.
Should Mackay and Wilkinson make the cut for Tokyo she will become the first Napier Sailing Club member to compete at an Olympics since Kylie Jameson went to Athens in 2004. Mackay has been a member of the Napier club since she was 9.
She started in Optimists before blossoming into the 420 national champion in 2013 and '14. Mackay and Wilkinson are in their fourth year of racing in the Nacra 17 class where 5.5m (18 foot) long Flying Phantom foiling catamarans are raced and in 2016 were the under-23 world champions.
Another 2016 highlight for the pair was their victory in the Red Bull Foiling Generation World Final in the United States.
With this victory Mackay became the first Napier club member to taste world championship glory since Barry Finlayson and Ian Norrie won the 1980 Flying Fifteen World Championship.