Barbara is Back on the Board
Barbara Kendall has her sights set on Beijing. The three-time Olympic medallist announced her intention today to campaign for the 2008 Olympic Games and was named as part of the Yachting New Zealand Olympic Sailing Squad.
"People ask me how I can keep coming back," says Kendall. "It is because I am passionate about my sport - I love competing, training, and trying to stay at the top of the world against all odds."
At 38 years of age and a veteran of four Olympic Sailing regattas Kendall knows what it takes to reach the podium and is realistic about what it will take to be back there less than three years from now. With Olympic Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in her possession she is already New Zealand's most successful female Olympian and is keen to add to the tally.
"It won't be easy as I will be the oldest in the fleet by about 10 years or so as the other girls my age have retired. It will be a HUGE challenge. But with smart training and good recovery I should be sweet," she says.
The Beijing Games will represent a new challenge for Kendall following the announcement from ISAF earlier this year that the Olympic boardsailing equipment will change. The Mistral will be replaced by a new board, the Neil Pryde RS:X. However it isn't the first time Kendall has tackled this challenge.
Following Kendall's gold medal in Atlanta in 1992 the equipment was changed from the Lechner board to the Mistral, moving towards a faster board with planing properties. She went on to medal on the Mistral in 1996 and 2000 and took three Mistral World Championships titles in 1998, 1999 and 2002. Kendall has taken possession of a new board and will commence training on the Neil Pryde RS:X shortly.
Kendall has said that the highlight of her career was winning the 2002 World Championship after the birth of her first daughter. She is now a busy mother of two and declares that she is extremely lucky to have the full support of husband Shayne Bright and other family. "It will require a HUGE amount of support to try and juggle two children, but where there is a will there is a way," says Kendall.
YNZ Olympic Director, Rod Davis is pleased to have Kendall in his Olympic Squad as he sets his sights on medals in Beijing.
"Barbara's past Olympic record speaks for itself. The challenges she will face, in her quest for her 4th Olympic medal are big. But talent, determination and history are all on her side and so are we," says Davis. "Barbara is someone you just back - because you know she can do it. I've got a lot of confidence in her. The next few years will be the biggest sailing test of her life. All of us are looking forward to it. "
The Neil Pryde RS:X was made available to New Zealand's top board sailors earlier this year with test events being the only international competition to date. While Kendall has been off the water due to the birth of her second daughter, Yachting New Zealand Academy board sailors, Thomas Ashley, Jon-Paul Tobin and David Robertson have been training on the board since its introduction and are learning about the qualities of the Neil Pryde RS:X and how it differs from the Mistral.
"The Neil Pryde RS:X has put Olympic windsurfing back on the cutting edge of technology," says Jon-Paul Tobin. "Neil Pryde who manufactures the RS:X is the largest windsurfing company globally and as such has the resources to promote and develop Olympic windsurfing to the maximum."
Tobin says that the Neil Pryde RS:X comes alive when the wind exceeds 10 knots and the board utilizes its ability to sail primarily off the fin in comparison to the Mistral which relies on the centreboard for upwind performance in all conditions. Sailing downwind the RS:X is faster than the Mistral when the wind hits 7 knots and it then increases its advantage as the wind strengthens.
"Neil Pryde has already organised a couple of test events for the RS:X the main one was raced in Cadiz in October this year with the majority of athletes in attendance, the racing was a success in all conditions particularly in the breeze when the RS:X equipment is in the zone," says Tobin.
Racing for the Neil Pryde RS:X officially commences in 2006. Sail Melbourne in January is an ISAF Grade One event and will be the first regatta to officially recognise the new Olympic equipment. Following this New Zealand will be the focus for Neil Pryde RS:X competition with the national championships and Sail Auckland regatta. A number of international athletes including current and former world champions are confirmed to race in the two New Zealand regattas.