Tokyo Olympics: Sailor Josh Junior wins race for Games selection

Sailor Josh Junior has edged rival and best mate Andy Maloney to earn selection in the Finn class for the Tokyo Olympics.

On Friday, the 31-year-old was confirmed as the lone NZ representative in the heavyweight dinghy, receiving the nomination on the back of his consistently impressive results at pinnacle events.

In 2019 Junior became the first Kiwi to win the Finn Gold Cup (World Championships) since its introduction in 1956. 

He followed that result with bronze at this month's Finn Gold Cup in Portugal, where training partner Maloney claimed gold.

Maloney will still accompany Junior to Tokyo, after the pair agreed that whoever missed selection would travel as the other's coach.

Junior says he's honoured to again represent New Zealand at the Olympics, where he'll be looking to improve on his seventh-placing in the Finn in Rio 2016.

"It's incredibly special to be a part of the team and I can't wait to get there and try to win a gold medal for New Zealand," Junior says.

"Andy and I have been building up to these Games for a long time now. We’ve worked closely together and it was always going to be tough to decide who would get to represent New Zealand at the Olympics. 

"I’m now incredibly lucky to have the current world champion coaching me, but I definitely feel for him at the same time."

Maloney admits he has "mixed feelings" about missing out for a second-straight Games. In 2016, he was narrowly beaten out for a place in the Laser to Sam Meech for the Rio Olympics but fully supports Junior's selection, taking solace in his world championship win earlier this month.

"I'm obviously disappointed to not be competing in Tokyo but can be happy with my progression in the Finn over the Olympic cycle," says Maloney. "Thanks to Josh and our coaches I can bow out of the Finn as the world champ, which is pretty cool.

"Josh sailed incredibly well through our selection series, winning the 2019 World Championships and then following it up with another spot on the podium this year. 

"He's quick and racing really well, so I can't wait to continue pushing him over the next two months and supporting him through these final stages of the campaign."

Junior rounds out the NZ sailing team to compete at Enishoma, the sailing venue for the Tokyo Olympics, joining Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (49er), Alex Maloney and Molly Meech (49erFX), Sam Meech (Laser), Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox (men's 470) and Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson (Nacra 17).