Rio 2016: GB finalise Paralympic sailing squad

GB Skud18 crew of Niki Birrell and Alex Rickham
Niki Birrell and Alexandra Rickham will be hoping to improve on their London 2012 performance

London 2012 bronze medallists Alexandra Rickham and Niki Birrell have been named in Britain's Paralympic sailing squad for this summer's Rio Games.

The five-time world champions will compete together in the Skud 18 class for a third time.

The Sonar trio of Stephen Thomas, John Robertson and Hannah Stodel represent ParalympicsGB at their fourth Games.

The five experienced sailors join reigning Paralympic champion Helena Lucas, who was selected in April 2015.

It will be the last chance in the immediate future to win medals in the sport after sailing was removed from the programme for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

Rickham, 34, and Birrell, 29, won silver at the last Worlds in Australia in December.

World champions Robertson, 44, Thomas, 39, and Stodel, 30 made their debut at Athens 2004, finishing sixth both there and in Beijing in 2008.

"Representing your country at the Paralympics means the world to us," said Thomas, who also competed in sledge hockey for Britain at the 2006 Winter Paralympics.

They were in bronze-medal position in London but were given a points penalty after team bosun Simon Hiscocks cleaned the port side of the keel after being authorised to lift the boat out of the water to inspect some damage.

It dropped them down to fifth overall and an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport failed to overturn the decision.

Problems with pollution

Last December, World Sailing said that the water quality at the Guanabara Bay sailing venue needed major improvement with tests revealing high levels of bacteria and viruses coming from human sewage.

But although Thomas said he and his crew have not found the conditions as bad as portrayed in the media, Rickham told BBC Sport that she is concerned with the debris in the water.

"In our class, if something gets caught on the boat, you could end up on the back foot and people could potentially lose races because of it," she said.

"We're not happy with the conditions but have done everything we can."

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