Tokyo Olympics 2020: Games selection still 'pretty special' for gold medallist Peter Burling

Olympic sailing champion Peter Burling still gets goosebumps when his name is announced to represent his country.

The Rio 2016 gold medallist was one of seven sailors named for the Tokyo Olympics, where he and 49er partner Blair Tuke will attempt to go back-to-back. 

Tokyo will mark the fourth Olympic appearance for Burling, who was first selected as 17-year-old for Beijing 2008.

Speaking to The AM Show, Burling said it was still a "pretty special" feeling to wear the silver fern on a global stage. 

"For me, it's slightly different, I guess, to other members of the team that are representing New Zealand at the Olympics for the first time," Burling noted.

"But it's not any less special than when I got the nod for the first time a few years ago. It's a pretty special event to participate in."

Burling and Tuke are the undisputed kings of the 49er class, backing up a silver medal at London 2012 with six world championship titles to sit alongside gold in Rio.

The pair took a two-year break from the class in 2017 to focus on big-boat racing in the America's Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race.

But they've re-established their credentials, winning 2019 and 2020 world championships in quick succession. 

"There has been a lot of hard work over the last year or so for Blair and myself to get back to this level in the 49er.

"We have had a couple of good results in the last two world championships, and to get the nod now gives us that last little bit of motivation to try and win another gold medal for our country in Tokyo."

But it won't be easy, with Burling believing the class is as competitive as ever.

The Team NZ helmsman told The AM Show he and Tuke would need to be at their best for the Tokyo regatta. 

"One of the really cool things about the 49er class is the competition level is really high. "There are quite a few crews that can put together a really good performance on the day and go close to winning, so for us  it's just about making sure we are in the best shape we can be and do what we did in Rio."

More sailors are expected to be added to the seven-strong squad in coming weeks. 

NZ sailing team for Tokyo 2020.
49er: Peter Burling and Blair Tuke

49er FX: Alex Maloney and Molly Meech

Laser: Sam Meech

Nacra 17: Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson