SA sailors qualify for Tokyo Olympics

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South African sailors Benji Daniel and Alex Burger (Credit: Liesl King)
South African sailors Benji Daniel and Alex Burger (Credit: Liesl King)
Liesl King

South African sailors Benji Daniel and Alex Burger have booked their spot at the Tokyo Olympics in the 49er class.

Just a year ago, the former 29er world champions (who beat 129 teams from 17 countries for that title) were convinced their dream of competing at a first Olympics was all but over.

Daniel and Burger travelled to Oman for the Mussanah Open Championship to secure that coveted Olympic qualification spot.

The South African duo went on to qualify for the Tokyo Games after a sixth-place overall finish, which included a victory in race seven, three runner-up finishes and a third-spot finish.

"We feel extremely relieved to have finally gotten through the qualifier event after so many delays and so much uncertainty," said Daniel.

"It wasn't our absolute best performance, but at the same time, we were extremely solid against the world's best Asian teams for a large majority of the 15 races in the event.

"To be able to win races at such a high-pressure event tells us that we are on the right track. So from that point of view, we are very happy with our progress as we are constantly looking to learn and improve."

Burger said that their performance in Oman was the perfect opportunity to scope up their Olympic competition.

"We learned a lot in those tight situations as the event came to a head. Those teams competing for the top places are really experienced Olympic sailors who have been through as many as 10 seasons at senior Olympic level. We learned a lot from them and from the situation and we will be better for it going forward," said Burger.

With just over three months to go until the Olympic sailing programme gets under way at Enoshima Yacht Harbour in Japan, there's still plenty for the young sailors to do.

"We need to train and prepare with everything we've got and try to make the best decisions we can about where to focus our time and effort," said Burger.

"Fortunately, we have a great support structure and some really good coaching and mentorship from previous Olympic sailors. We are really excited about the challenge ahead."

President of SA Sailing Michael Robinson hailed the pair on their performance in Oman.

"On behalf of SA Sailing, I'd like to congratulate Benji and Alex on their excellent result and on securing Olympic qualification," said Robinson.

"Their final selection for Team SA to Tokyo will need to be confirmed by the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) but we look forward to seeing what these talented young sailors can achieve in the future."

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