Irish Olympian Saskia Tidey is to represent Team GB in the race to compete at the next Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Tidey finished 12th in Rio, competing alongside Andrea Brewster but the latter has decided to focus now on coaching and Tidey looked to Charlotte Dobson who finished 8th in Rio for Great Britain as her new partner.
The decision is a blow to the Irish Sailing Association whose High Performance programme produced a strongest ever representation in Rio and a Silver medal for Annalise Murphy.
The focus on bringing together talented sailors from a young age is one that takes time to get right and it is a shame that this setback has occurred.
The investment in sailors from early in a career takes a massive commitment of financial, energy and emotional resource and while ireland has benefitted in the main from having athletes switch to represent us during a career, it is a blow when the trend is reversed given the relative size of investment and athletes here and the decision which always has to be taken to back one athlete over another.
“It’s regrettable that Saskia has decided to pursue her sailing career with another country but, that said, the ISA wish her the best of luck with her future endeavours,” said ISA performance director James O’Callaghan speaking to the Irish Times.
“She’s a good example of what can be achieved from a managed programme as she came up through the academy and, along with Andrea Brewster, put in a fantastic performance at the Rio Olympics. We were hoping to build on that, but it’s not to be.”
Tidey and Brewster were one of four teams that Ireland qualified to compete in Rio. It is hoped to build on that in the next cycle but as with anything investment is crucial to maintaining momentum.
Team Great Britain had another strong Olympic Games and has secured funding of a known €30 million to enable it to compete across all ten Olympic classes next time around.
There is no guarantee that Tidey will qualify but she has made a percentage call, enabled by her father Don Tidey’s British citizenship. He shot to fame in the 1980’s as the victim of a high profile kidnap and rescue in Ballinamore, County Leitrim.
“There wasn’t an option here in Ireland in the 49er FX with another girl who had the experience to sail at the same level that I had finished up at [at Rio 2016], to be competitive and win a medal in 2020,” Tidey said in this morning’s Irish Times.
“The 49er FX is a very specific boat and it takes a vast amount of time and commitment, full-time commitment, to even get to the level we got to.”
“It’s not been easy personally for me,” she said. “I’m so proud to be Irish, I will always be Irish, and I absolutely couldn’t have been prouder to represent Ireland at Rio 2016.”
“I’m grateful for what has happened, but now [am looking forward to] four years of 100 per cent focus on performance.”
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