Paris Olympics: Justina Kitchen, Lukas Walton-Keim named New Zealand's first-ever kite Olympians

Justina Kitchen.
Justina Kitchen. Photo credit: Getty Images

New Zealand will be represented by Justina Kitchen and Lukas Walton-Keim for the inaugural kiteboarding event at the upcoming Paris Olympics.

Regarded as the fastest class in sailing, the event will make its debut as part of the sailing schedule in France.

Kitchen and Walton-Kleim join Tom Saunders (ILCA 7), Greta Pilkington (ILCA 6), Jo Aleh and Molly Meech (49erFX), Isaac McHardie and Will McKenzie (49er), Micah Wilkinson and Erica Dawson (Nacra 17), Veerle ten Have (women's windfoil) and Josh Armit (men's windfoil) in the NZ sailing team.

Kitchen's selection caps a remarkable injury comeback, after she ruptured both her anterior cruciate ligament and her medial cruciate ligament in her knee just days before the European championships in September 2023.

Kitchen - daughter of double Olympic medallist Rex Sellers- missed out on selection in the windsurfing class for the 2012 London Olympics, after having a third reconstructive surgery on her shoulder and switched to kitefoiling, after the International Sailing Federation (now World Sailing) announced windsurfing would be replaced by the new class at Rio 2016.

"It's been quite a long journey, but experiencing the highs and lows of two previous campaigns has made me mentally stronger," said Kitchen.

Lukas Walton-Keim.
Lukas Walton-Keim. Photo credit: Getty Images

"When it's harder to get there, it makes it all the more significant and being selected is everything I imagined it would be."

Walton-Keim is also recovering from his own injury obstacle, taking most of 2023 off to repair a torn meniscus.

"It is a big relief to finally get to this point and to have the opportunity to represent my country at the Olympics," said Walton-Keim.

"There have been moments where it felt like it wouldn't happen, but this proves to myself that I can do it. I am very grateful for the support of the incredible team behind me."

The sailing programme at Paris begins on July 28.