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Sailors bring the strength of their experience to the race for medals at Rio 2016

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on 01-03-2016 07:50

Great Britain’s most experienced Paralympic sailors will once again represent ParalympicsGB at Rio 2016, the British Paralympic Association (BPA) announced today.

With just over six months to go until the Games get under way, London 2012 bronze medallists Alexandra Rickham (Epsom) and Niki Birrell (Bournemouth) have been selected to contest for medals in the SKUD 18 class, while the trio of Stephen Thomas (Bridgend), John Robertson (Sunderland) and Hannah Stodel (Colchester) take their places in the Sonar, looking to make up for the disappointment of narrowly missing a podium place in 2012.

Rickham and Birrell are already two-time Paralympians, having made their debut together in the SKUD 18 class at Beijing 2008 and celebrate their selection to Rio 2016 as five-time World Champions and current Paralympic bronze medallists.

Meanwhile Stephen Thomas, John Robertson and Hannah Stodel will be competing in their fourth Summer Paralympics together after making their debut in Athens. All five athletes are determined to bring all their experience to the water in the race for medals in Rio. 

The five athletes complete the line-up for the ParalympicsGB sailing team, and take up their places alongside London 2012 gold medallist Helena Lucas MBE, who was the first athlete to be selected to ParalympicsGB for Rio back in April 2015.

"Having such incredible support back at home will really boost us." Alexandra Rickham

Alexandra Rickham, teaming up with Niki Birrell for their third consecutive Games, said:

“I couldn’t be happier to be selected to represent ParalympicsGB in Rio. We’ll face tough competition out in Rio, but these next few months of intensive preparations will make sure we’ll be ready to shine at the Paralympics, and having such incredible support back at home will really boost us.”

Stephen Thomas, Hannah Stodel and John Robertson go into the Games as reigning World Champions after striking gold at the 2015 World Championships. They made their Paralympic debut together at Athens 2004, making Rio 2016 their fourth consecutive Games as a trio.

"Our sport is incredibly competitive and it’s not going to be easy." Stephen Thomas

Stephen Thomas said:

“Representing your country at the Paralympics means the world to us and we’ll be working incredibly hard over the next few months to make everyone at home proud. Our sport is incredibly competitive and it’s not going to be easy, but going into the competition as reigning World Champions definitely gives us confidence.”

Penny Briscoe MBE, ParalympicsGB Chef de Mission for Rio 2016, said:

"The selection of such a strong, talented and experienced group of athletes sends a powerful message to other Paralympic sailing nations." Penny Briscoe

“The selection of such a strong, talented and experienced group of athletes sends a powerful message to other Paralympic sailing nations. Our athletes will be looking to maintain their good form in Rio and compete for medals across all three classes.

"All five athletes have really proved themselves." Penny Briscoe

“All five athletes have really proved themselves throughout the selection process, with the recent gold for the Sonar and silver for the SKUD 18 at the 2015 Para-Sailing World Championships demonstrating the scale of their ambition for Rio. I’m delighted to welcome them to the team.”

Sailing Team Leader and RYA Olympic and Paralympic Manager Stephen Park OBE said:

“We’re delighted to be able to finalise our Paralympic team selections today and to be taking six talented and experienced athletes with us to Rio, all of whom have proven themselves in major competition over a number of years. 

"The sailors will be focussing all their energies on learning the intricacies of racing in Guanabara Bay." Stephen Park

“There’s no doubt that Rio is an incredibly challenging environment to compete in, and the sailors will be focussing all their energies on learning the intricacies of racing in Guanabara Bay.  All of these athletes have been to the Games a number of times before and with the removal of sailing from the Tokyo 2020 programme, this could be the last opportunity for them to perform so we will be working all out with them and doing all we can to ensure they fulfil their medal potential in Rio.”

Today’s announcement brings the number of selected athletes to a total of 10, across the sports of sailing and judo.

Selected athletes (sailing):

SKUD
Alexandra Rickham        Based: Hamble    Home town: Epsom
Niki Birrell                     Based: Hamble    Home town: Bournemouth

Sonar
Hannah Stodel               Based: Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy                    Home town: Colchester
John Robertson              Based: Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy                    Home town: Sunderland
Stephen Thomas            Based: Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy                    Home town: Bridgend

2.4mR
Helena Lucas MBE        Based: Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy                    Home town: Southampton

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