Rio Paralympics: Helena Lucas named on GB sailing team

Helena Lucas
Lucas won four of her 10 races at the London Paralympics

Paralympic sailing champion Helena Lucas has been named as the first member of the Great Britain team for Rio 2016.

The Southampton sailor, who turns 40 on Wednesday, is the first confirmed athlete on either the Olympic or Paralympic team.

It will be a third Games for Lucas, who competes in the one-person 2.4mR keelboat event.

"It's amazing that I'm the first athlete to be selected," she said.

Lucas, who was born without thumbs and has limited movement in her arms, beat Megan Pascoe to the sole GB slot in the class.

In 2012, she won gold in London to become the first GB sailor to win a Paralympic medal since the sport became a full part of the Games programme in 2000.

"It's a massive relief to know I'm going to Rio and have the opportunity to defend my gold medal," she added.

"It's a huge privilege, but also it means we can really focus on preparing for Rio and the specifics of the venue.

Helena Lucas facts
In 2006, Helena stood in for Shirley Robertson to helm in the Olympic class Yngling at the first Beijing Olympic Test Event, winning silver alongside Annie Lush and Lucy MacGregor.
She made her Paralympic debut in Beijing in 2008, finishing in 7th place.
She was the only woman competing in the 2.4mR class at the 2012 Paralympics and beat her nearest rival by nine points.

"London was an amazing experience but no sailor has yet managed to defend their Paralympic title. It would be amazing to be the first sailor to be able to do that, so that's the drive and the goal for Rio."

Lucas has been in superb form this year and is the only GB athlete in her class to have secured podium places in the Royal Yachting Association's (RYA) four qualification events, including silver at the 2014 IFDS World Championships and bronze in the 2.4mR Open World Championships.

Her selection comes with sailing missing out on being part of the programme for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.

Sailing team leader and RYA Olympic manager Stephen Park said: "By selecting at this early stage it allows us to focus our attentions on optimising Helena's performance and the specific challenges of Rio itself, which is a very difficult venue in sailing terms, while at the same time harnessing Megan's undoubted talent to aid the British team's medal-winning prospects across the Paralympic classes."

GB has qualified a further five slots for athletes to compete in the Skud-18 and the Sonar class in Rio and competition for places in those classes will continue over the coming months.

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