The British Paralympic Association (BPA) have named London 2012 sailing champion Helena Lucas as the first athlete selected to represent ParalympicsGB at Rio 2016.
The selection sees her become the first official member of either ParalympicsGB or Team GB for Rio.
Lucas, who turned 40 yesterday, is used to making history, as the first GB sailor to win a Paralympic medal since the sport became a full part of the Paralympic programme in 2000 when she won gold in the 2.4mR class on home water at London 2012.
She did so as the only female sailor amid an otherwise all-male 2.4mR fleet, and in just under 500 days’ time, Lucas will sail for ParalympicsGB once again, in Rio.
The announcement that she will make her third Games appearance was made yesterday at the recently renovated Cutty Sark, in Greenwich, London.
It is the culmination of a selection campaign in which Lucas produced consistent performances, fending off tough competition for the place in the 2.4mR class from compatriot Megan Pascoe.
She is the only GB athlete in her class to have secured podium places in the Royal Yachting Association’s four qualification events, including silver at the 2014 IFDS World Championships and bronze in the 2.4mR Open World Championships.
Lucas said: ‘I think relieved is probably the best word. It’s been great having Meg there and pushing me all the way in the trials, and it’s a massive relief to know that I’m going to Rio and have the opportunity to defend my gold medal.
‘It’s amazing that I’m the first athlete to be selected. I think the last time round I was probably one of the last to get nominated, so it’s from one extreme to the other! It’s a huge privilege, but also it means that we can really focus on preparing for Rio and the specifics of the venue.
‘London was an amazing experience, to compete at a home Games and win gold at a home Games. 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.’
Chef de Mission Penny Briscoe said: ‘With just under 500 days to go, it’s incredibly exciting to name the first athlete who will represent ParalympicsGB in Rio and I’d like to congratulate Helena on her selection to the team.
‘There is no doubt that the RYA has created a world-class programme for their Paralympic athletes and Helena’s results reflect her talent, her hard work and the fantastic support she has from her team the RYA.
‘Helena’s continued success at the highest level is evidence that this approach is helping GB to maintain their reputation as a leading Sailing nation – and one which occupies the top world ranking spots in all three Paralympic Classes at present.’
RYA Olympic Manager Stephen Park said: ‘We’re delighted to be able to nominate Helena as the first athlete selected for either ParalympicsGB or Team GB for Rio 2016. She has proven her ability to consistently deliver medal success at the highest level.
‘Helena has had some tough competition in the selection trials from Megan, but by selecting in the 2.4mR class 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 Sailing Team’s medal-winning prospects across the Paralympic Classes.’
Great Britain has qualified a further five slots for athletes to compete in the SKUD 18 and the Sonar class at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Competition for places in those classes will continue over the coming months.