Carlow’s Finn Lynch was just eight years old when he started saililng. A decade later, and he has qualified for the Olympic Games.
The 19-year secured the sole Irish place in the men’s single-handed dinghy event for Rio 2016 by being the best of the three contenders at the Laser World Championships at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
He started the regatta needing to overtake London 2012 veteran, James Espey, by six places, at the third and final event in the Irish Sailing Association Olympic Group trials series. While Espey secured the place for Ireland at Rio last year, it was always expected that a selection series would be needed to decide the individual, and Lynch had been tipped as a likely contender.
After first starting out in Topper single-handers on Blessington lakes, he was accepted for the national development squad in 2008, at the age of 12. The following year, he confirmed his potential by winning silver at the world championships.
Switching to the larger, Laser Radial class, he won silver at the ISAF Youth World Championships, on Dublin Bay, in 2012, and became the U17 European champion and U21 World champion.
He then started sailing for the National Yacht Club, in Dun Laoghaire, also home to London 2012 competitor, Annalise Murphy.
The final push towards the seniors, and the Laser Standard class, started in 2014, when he won the U19 World Championship.
Lynch wasn’t alone in the ‘up and coming’ stakes, either.
His friend and fellow-contender, Fionn Lyden, from Baltimore, was also hunting the place, but had a far greater task, as he lagged 20 places behind in the trials series, before the World Championships started last week.
While Lynch was the only one of the three to qualify for the Gold fleet, or top half of the 112-boat regatta, Lyden placed 11th overall in the Silver fleet, beating Espey, who placed 22nd in that event and closed the gap in a well-fought trials series.
Now, with trials behind him, Lynch can concentrate fully on his first Olympic appearance, at Rio, where he will compete in a fleet of 40 boats. An ambitious target for a first-timer would be a place in the medal race for the top-ten finishers.
Lynch now joins fellow newcomers, Andrew Brewster and Saskia Tidey, for the 49erFX (Women’s skiff), along with Murphy in the Laser Radial (Women’s single-handed) and London 2012 veterans, Ryan Seaton, with Matt McGovern, in the 49er (Men’s skiff), to be nominated by the board of the ISA to the Olympic Council of Ireland, for inclusion in the Irish team at Rio 2016.
All four boats and six sailing athletes will be in competition together at next month’s ‘Sail for Gold’ regatta, at the London 2012 regatta venue, at Weymouth, before leaving to begin pre-event training in Rio.
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