Belfast Telegraph

Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern sail to a Rio 2016 spot

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland sailors Matt McGovern and Ryan Seaton are on their way to the Rio Olympics.

The dynamic duo qualified Team Ireland in the 49er category for the 2016 Games at the ISAF World Championships in Santander, Spain yesterday.

With a trip to Brazil virtually assured for the Ulstermen, they can now focus on bringing home a medal from the World Championships... and they have every chance as they enter the weekend in sixth position in the fiercely competitive 49er class.

McGovern and Seaton needed a top 10 finish to make it to Rio and they guaranteed that yesterday by creating enough of a points gap to secure a coveted top 10 place with one day of qualifying to spare.

It has been quite a week for Team Ireland in Santander.

First, Northern Ireland's James Espey qualified for the Olympics in the Laser Standard class and then it was Annalise Murphy's turn in the Laser Radial with McGovern and Seaton making it a hat-trick.

The way the qualification works, officially Ireland are certain to have three boats in Rio as in the last few days Olympic spots for nations rather than individuals have been claimed.

But given Ireland's successful competitors in Spain are so far ahead of everyone else on the Emerald Isle in their various categories, it is virtually certain that Espey, Murphy, McGovern and Seaton will be filling the spots.

This regatta has offered nations the first chance to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.

Prior to the event in Santander, McGovern told the Belfast Telegraph that he and Seaton were confident of reaching Rio at the first attempt and they have delivered, showing their ability and growing confidence in the 80-strong field.

The two Ballyholme Yacht club members, disappointed to finish in 14th place at the London 2012 Games, were pleased to have booked a spot on the Rio-bound plane in 2016, but know that with more races at the weekend, including tomorrow's climax when they will go for medals and potentially even a World title, there is still work to be done.

Seaton said: "Getting the qualification for Rio is a big boost for us.

"It's one box ticked but we still have a job to finish. We're here to get a medal so we've still got to keep pushing hard."

McGovern added: "Now we can focus on events in Rio rather than having to compete in Europe at the other qualifiers.

"From a preparation point of view it makes things a lot smoother."

The Irish Sailing Association's Performance Director James O'Callaghan commented: "The boys showed their experience and got the first part of the job done."

In the female 49erFX Gold fleet, Ireland's Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey had a physically and mentally gruelling four races yesterday.

The pair capsized in the first race and were unable to finish. Things did not improve too much with placings of 25, 19 and 20 after that.

They will have one final shot at Olympic qualification today when they must be among the top 10 nations. They are currently lying 23rd.

Belfast Telegraph

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