Tesch, Fitzgibbon look to ride London success into Rio 2016

The defending Paralympic, world champion duo aim to repeat their success in the mixed two person SKUD 18 class at Rio 2016. 15 Sep 2015
A picture of a man in a wheelchair and woman celebrating their victory with a gold medal around their necks

Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch celebrating their victory in the two-person keelboat SKUD18 competition at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

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By James Johnston | For the IPC

"We are the team with a target on our backs."

Australia’s Liesl Tesch landed her first Paralympic gold medal at London 2012, and now the six-time Paralympian hopes to keep that momentum going for at least another year into Rio 2016.

Following the gold in the mixed two person SKUD 18 class in London, Tesch went on to capture the International Association for Disabled Sailing (IFDS) World Championship title in 2014 – both with sailing partner Daniel Fitzgibbon.

She knows the pair will be the ones to chase at Rio 2016, and if they retain their world title at the IFDS Combined World Championships (23 November -3 December) in Melbourne, Australia, the pressure may be higher.

"We are the team with a target on our backs,” Tesch said. “We have not lost a regatta since London, so holding that lead would be a nice position to be in going into the Games, but also perhaps a dangerous position to be in. But as long as we keep going the way we have been going, we can do it again."

Tesch competed for the Australian women’s wheelchair basketball team at five Paralympic Games (Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008), winning two silver medals and one bronze. She opted to switch sports to sailing late in 2010, and the transition was smooth.

It helped that she spent much of her youth sailing in waters close to Sydney, Australia.

"Because I had been a sailor as a kid it was just natural, and I think he [Fitzgibbon] just knew it would work,” Tesch said. "As I was an athlete already, you know how to be coached, how to listen to instructions and I already had all of the sailing stuff. I just became a machine on the front of the boat."

But Tesch noted that her string of success cannot go unnoticed without her sailing partner Fitzgibbon, whom she said is the 'brains' of the operation. Without his sailing prowess, their harmony would not be possible.

"I think he has got a really hard job,” Tesch said. “I am the machine. He is the tactical mastermind. I give him the information, so I have got to be his eyes on the boat. We go through decision making together and although it is a shared decision, he is the ultimate decision maker. But in periods of intense sailing, we are one unit, one being."

With less than a year to go until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, the duo know the expectation is to replicate their success from London 2012.

"When it came round to 365 days to go, I was out of my skin with joy, it is just unreal,” Tesch said.

"Sydney is one of the most spectacular cities in the world, but the beauty of Rio is even more so. I am honoured to be in the right place at the right time as a Paralympic athlete.

Rio 2016 tickets are now on sale to residents of Brazil. Overseas fans, meanwhile, should contact the authorised ticket resellers (ATRs) in their territories.