Rickham eyes World title and Paralympics qualification

On the water: Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell

On the water: Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell

First published in News by

Epsom sailor Alexandra Rickham is vying for a sixth consecutive world championship, but she also has an eye on qualification for Rio 2016.

The 32-year-old, with sailing partner Niki Birrell, has been competing in the two-person Skud class at the IFDS Disabled Sailing Combined World Championships in Canada since Tuesday.

Rickham, who won bronze in the SKUD class at the 2012 Paralympics, said: “The Worlds this year is a country qualification event for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and it’s the biggest Championships that we have had since London 2012.

"There are a lot of unknowns to be honest so we are just going in with open minds.

“We have worked really hard over the winter and spring but over the last month or so we haven’t had access to our boat due to it being shipped, so have had some time off and are now raring to race.”

Looking to extend their unbeaten run to six regattas since winning bronze at London 2012, which included the European crown last year, Rickham said the opportunity to race against a large international fleet is crucial in terms of their preparations for Rio 2016.

“It is important for us to see where everyone is at," she said.

"There has been so little opportunity to compete, it’s not that we haven’t wanted to race, there just hasn’t been the fleet available for us so this is our first opportunity this cycle to see where everybody is at, to see what they have been doing and how things have moved forward.

“I think there is going to be a lot of learning more than anything else as well as a really great time for us and our coach, Marcus, to accrue a bit more information about the other teams.

"But clearly our main aim is to go there to try and win another title.”

The British SKUD duo undoubtedly go into the Championships as one of the favourites to land the crown, but Rickham knows they are going to have be at the top of their game to land the top prize.

She said: “I think it’s going to really competitive this year. Like I said it is the first selector event for Rio 2016 so everybody will be vying for the first five or six spots.

"We have got over 15 boats on the start line which is the biggest SKUD fleet we have seen pre-Games since the Worlds in Weymouth in 2011 so I think there will be a lot of jostling for the top spots.

“The level of the SKUD fleet has raised, we are going to see potentially some different people moving up the scoreboard which is exciting to see.

"But as the fleet raises its game Niki and I will also aim to raise our game and try to stay on top.”

She added: “However, we still need to treat it like any other event, take one race at a time and see how we come out the other side.

"In some ways it puts added pressure on us but in other ways we have won the title five times in a row so I guess there is a level of confidence that we can go in with.”

Croydon Guardian:

World champion: Alexandra Rickham

 

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