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Birrell and crewmate set their sights on Team GB’s first sailing medals
11:22am Thursday 30th August 2012 in Sport
NIKI Birrell and Alexandra Rickham are confident they have the speed to secure Great Britain’s first ever Paralympic Sailing medal, as favourites in the SKUD 18 class.
The duo recently won an eight-minute unofficial practice race by 40 seconds on the course in Weymouth and Portland and Birrell said: “We know we are fast. We just have to start well and not make mistakes.”
Australia, featuring Beijing silver medallist Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch, are likely to be their nearest rivals but Birrell cautioned: “Everyone brings their ‘A’ game. The Australians are fast, but so are the Canadians, the Americans and the Israelis.”
Great Britain have been unable to secure a medal in any of the three classes since Sailing was introduced to the Paralympics 12 years ago.
Birrell and Rickham came together as a crew in 2007 and finished fourth in Beijing the following year but have won each of the four world championships since.
At 26, Birrell, a former Lymm High School pupil, is the youngest member of the GB Sailing squad. He competed with his brother at the 470 world championships for able-bodied sailors before switching to Paralympic classes.
Rickham, 30, was paralysed after suffering a spinal injury when she dived into shallow water in her native Jamaica in 1995. She subsequently moved to the UK to study at London’s Imperial College.