Josh Junior knows how significant it is to have earned selection for the Tokyo Olympics in the Finn class.
The 31-year-old was selected ahead of close friend and training partner Andy Maloney for the one position available to New Zealand in the heavyweight dinghy. Junior received the nomination off the back of his consistently high results at pinnacle events.
In 2019 Junior became the first Kiwi to win the Finn Gold Cup (World Championships) since its introduction in 1956. He followed that result with bronze at this month's Finn Gold Cup in Portugal.
Maloney won the world title in Portugal, not only illustrating the depth of Finn sailing in this country but also emphasising the success of the pair's shared campaign approach. Maloney will now take over as Junior's coach for the Olympics.
Junior was seventh in the Finn at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and heads to Tokyo confident about his chances of standing on the podium.
"I feel honoured and excited to get the opportunity to represent New Zealand at the Tokyo Olympics," he said.
"It's incredibly special to be a part of the team and I can't wait to get there and try to win a gold medal for New Zealand.
"Andy and I have been building up to these Games for a long time now. We've worked closely together and it was always going to be tough to decide who would get to represent New Zealand at the Olympics. I'm now incredibly lucky to have the current world champion coaching me, but I definitely feel for him at the same time.
"Rio was an amazing experience for me. Although the result was tough, it has taught us a lot that we've built into this campaign. I'm looking forward to working further with Andy as we look ahead to Tokyo."
Maloney was philosophical about missing out, especially as he narrowly missed a spot in the team for the Rio Olympic Games to Sam Meech in the Laser, but he fully supported the decision.
"It's mixed feelings for me," he said. "I'm obviously disappointed to not be competing in Tokyo but can be happy with my progression in the Finn over the Olympic cycle. Thanks to Josh and our coaches I can bow out of the Finn as the world champ, which is pretty cool.
"Josh sailed incredibly well through our selection series, winning the 2019 World Championships and then following it up with another spot on the podium this year. He's quick and racing really well, so I can't wait to continue pushing him over the next two months and supporting him through these final stages of the campaign."
The selection of Junior rounds out the New Zealand sailing team to compete at Enishoma, the sailing venue for the Tokyo Olympics. He joins Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (49er), Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (49erFX), Sam Meech (Laser), Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox (men's 470) and Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson (Nacra 17).
Yachting New Zealand high performance director Ian Stewart said Junior's selection represented another milestone for the sailing team with the Games to start in less than two months.
"We're thrilled for JJ, but definitely feel for Andy," Stewart said. "It's a shame they both can't be on the start line because they've set a new level for New Zealand sailors working together. Having both of them in Japan is a real strength to the team.
"Given the unknowns and added pressures of these Olympics, it's great to have an experienced and tight team."
NZOC chief executive Kereyn Smith passed on her congratulations to Junior and Maloney.
"Both these athletes have put together fantastic campaigns and we're glad they'll both be joining us in Tokyo," said Smith.
"This is a real testament to the depth of talent developed by Yachting New Zealand and we look forward to seeing Junior in action in two-months time."
The selection of Junior brings the total number of athletes selected to the New Zealand Team to 49.
Josh Junior is back for another crack at an Olympic medal in the Finn after finishing seventh at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
He will do it this time as a two-time America's Cup winner and one of the world's best sailors in the heavyweight dinghy, having in 2019 become the first Kiwi to win the Finn Gold Cup (world championships) and following that up with bronze at this year's Finn Gold Cup in Portugal.
The 31-year-old has been working extremely closely with Andy Maloney over the Tokyo Olympic cycle and this approach has clearly paid dividends, especially as Maloney won the 2021 world title. Maloney will go to Tokyo as Junior's coach.
Junior's initial pathway was in the Laser, where he climbed to second on the world rankings, but he narrowly missed out on selection for the 2012 London Olympics and soon switched to the heavyweight dinghy. He made a successful transition and earned selection for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Junior grew up in Wellington and started sailing a Sunburst with his father at the age of five before moving into an Optimist, then P-Class and 420 before finding his feet in the Laser.