Following the final two races at the Laser Radial World Championship this morning (Wednesday 24 July 2019 – Sakaiminato, Japan), Ireland has qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing regatta in the women’s single-handed event.
The berth was secured by Lough Derg Yacht Club’s Aisling Keller (Nenagh, Co. Tipperary) who had her best day in the Gold fleet final series to finish 46th overall.
“This is a weight off my shoulders for sure, it’s probably the hardest regatta I’ve ever sailed,” Keller said. “To come in off the water and know that it’s done and dusted is just amazing (I’m) so happy.”
Howth Yacht Club’s Aoife Hopkins placed 48th and both Irish sailors were inside the qualification criteria with Keller taking the seventh of ten nation places decided at the championship. Hopkins would otherwise have been in the ninth nation place.
“It’s been a really long road to this moment. We’ve been working for a year towards this event particularly and even longer towards Olympic qualification,” said Hopkins. “It’s really nice to come away with the outcome we wanted.”
The world championship was won by Denmark’s Anne-Marie Rindom who led overall going into to the final day of Gold fleet racing on Wednesday. Ten nation places for Tokyo 2020 were also decided at the event in addition to the 20 already won in 2018.
“Qualification was something that had to happen so that ended up being the focus here at the end of the regatta,” said Rory Fitzpatrick, Irish Sailing’s Head Coach. “Next we go to the Olympic venue (at) Enoshima… now that we know we’re going to be there (at the Games) we’ve got to make the most of it.”
The sailing venue for next year’s Olympic regatta will host national representatives in all events next month for a scheduled test series for competitors and organisers alike.
“Aisling, Aoife and Rory have worked hard to get this far. It is fantastic to know we will be on the Olympic start line. The next phase is Olympic preparation and the bar gets set even higher for that, there are bigger performances to come from these two athletes” commented James O’Callaghan, Irish Sailing’s Performance Director. “The coming 12 months are critical to unlock potential but with support from Sport Ireland and the Irish Sailing Foundation, we are determined to give them the best chance for success.”