First-time Olympian Sam Meech has won Olympic Bronze in the Laser class pushing off challenges from five-time Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt (BRA) and reigning world champion Nick Thompson (GBR) with a solid medal race performance in Rio today.

It is New Zealands first ever medal in the Laser class, the tough fought mens lightweight single-handed dinghy event which was introduced to the Olympic Games in 1996.

While 25-year-old Meech was well placed to take the bronze medal, there were a trio of more senior sailors able to push the young kiwi out of a podium finish if he didnt perform today.

But as proven during the qualifying series Meech can deliver and he sailed a solid medal race to cross in 4th when a top five was all he needed today to secure the bronze medal.

Meech said, "I knew I needed to get fifth or better to make sure I got the medal so I just tried to stay within a few boats of three or four of the other guys so my plan was really just to have a good race and to get a good start."

"It more or less much went to plan, but obviously I was pretty nervous during the race."

Looking back on the regatta Meech said, "I was aiming to have a shot at getting a medal at the end of the week and so Im pretty stoked to finish the fleet racing and I was in that position, and to finish it off was absolutely amazing."

"Im really happy with how I sailed. There was only one race when things didnt go that well. So Im really proud.

After light winds in Rio yesterday pushed the high-pressure medal race out a day, the young kiwi had to hold his nerve, and he conceded that wasnt easy.

"I really wish we could have raced yesterday - I was pretty nervous and I was really keen to get going, so it was pretty hard to go home and have to wait another day."

The Laser class is the largest of the Olympic sailing fleets with 46 boats (from 46 nations) all vying for Olympic glory.

Meech stood on the spectacular Rio podium with Australias Tom Burton, who was able to use todays double-points medal race to move up to gold, from Tonci Stipanovic who has won Croatias first ever Olympic medal in sailing with silver.

Local hero and Olympic legend Robert Scheidt won today's medal race to finish 4th.

Sam Meech hails from the Tauranga Yacht and Powerboat Club and spent a good part of his childhood cruising internationally on the family keelboat.

His younger sister Molly is also representing New Zealand in Rio sailing in the 49erFX womens skiff event together with Alexandra Maloney, and the pair is well placed going into their medal race scheduled for 18 August.

Mark Howard is the coach for the NZL Sailing Team Laser squad and he has supported Meech in the final build-up and during the Olympic Games.

Rio 2016 Laser Podium

Gold - Tom Burton (AUS)

Silver - Tonci Stipanovic (CRO)

Bronze - Sam Meech (NZL)

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- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Yachting New Zealand