Kendall upset as boardsailing gets Olympic cut

GREG FORD
Last updated 05:00 07/05/2012
Boardsailing champ Barbara Kendall has been has been made a life member of Yachting New Zealand.
Reuters
FIGHT: A miffed Barbara Kendall has vowed to fight the shock decision to take boardsailing out of the Olympic Games.

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A miffed Barbara Kendall vowed yesterday to fight the shock decision to take boardsailing out of the Olympic Games in favour of kiteboarding – a sport she says "belongs at the X Games".

In a decision that left several others in the tight-knit New Zealand sailing circles reeling, the International Sailing Fraternity voted 19-17 for the proposal which means boardsailing will be cut from the Olympics after the London Games.

New Zealand has won seven of its 16 sailing medals in the discipline, which was introduced in 1984. Boardsailing took many years to win over the purists. Kiteboarding must now fight a similar battle.

Reaction in New Zealand was swift and resoundingly negative.

Kendall won a full set of Olympic boardsailing medals – gold (Barcelona) silver (Atlanta) and bronze (Sydney) – and said kiteboarding was dangerous, largely untested at large regattas, and an inferior class to boardsailing.

"It is exciting for kiteboarding but tragic for boardsailing. Kiteboarding really is a sport that should be at the [ESPN extreme sport construct] X Games.

"It's more of an extreme sort of recreational sport and the judging is just so subjective because it involves tricks and other stunts that are a feature of the X Games.

"The IOC has said it wants to move away from that sort of sport and judging and boardsailing also ticks all the gender and demographic boxes. So I was very surprised by the news and I guess they have bowed to pressure to modernise.

"While that is good I do not think kiteboarding is the answer."

Several sailing national bodies, including New Zealand's, have said they will appeal the decision and yesterday a Facebook page was created and befriended by 10,000 people, including Kendall, which would suggest the fight is far from over.

However, another Kiwi medal-winning boardsailor, Aaron McIntosh (bronze, Sydney), while also opposed to the change has a foot in both camps.

"I actually enjoy kiteboarding, which I took up in 2000 to experience something different," he said.

"But this is horrific news for boardsailing. I think there's room for both sports in the Olympics.

"Who will fund the sport [boardsailing] at the elite level if they know the programme makes no contribution towards an Olympic medal?"

McIntosh said kiteboarding would struggle to reform itself in time for Rio.

He predicted kiteboarding would embrace a traditional regatta format over a course rather than the tricks points-based system and would adopt a standard equipment rule.

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"There are several unknowns which is exciting in a way. I am coaching the Dutch team at the London Games, but will probably now have to switch sports. It kind of will make me look at the medal I won differently."

- The Press

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