WITH just under a year to go, Aberdeen-born sailing star Luke Patience has been named alongside sailing partner Elliot Willis among the very first athletes to officially join Team GB for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

London 2012 silver medallist Patience teamed up with two-time World Champion Willis in 2014 and will challenge for gold in the 470 Men’s event. The pair gelled quickly, winning the European Championships just six months later. At the start of this year they won gold at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami and will be looking for gold again in Guanabara Bay.

Patience, who also won silver with Stuart Bithell in 2012, feels honoured to have his second call up to Team GB: “It’s such an exciting phone call to get and it just gets the wee butterflies going.

“You dream about a single thing for so many years of your life, certainly all of my adult life in my case, so to get the call saying you’re selected for the Olympics is just so good, such an honour. I’m always proud to don the Team GB shirt and here we go again. Round two, let’s fight!”

For Willis, Rio will be his first Olympic Games and Patience is looking forward to sharing the experience with him: “I’m just so pleased to be in a team with Elliot and be able to experience his first excitement to it all. He is a very grounded guy and he is very unaffected by the occasion, but let’s be honest it’s the Olympic Games, and it is going to be a good one!”

“We raced each other hard, to the bone, in our younger years and here we are in the team together. Stuart and I had a fantastic experience last time round and I’m sure Elliot and I are on the same path to have a fantastic experience to go and race hard.

“He has got to be one of the most talented and successful sailors that has yet to go to the Olympic Games so I’m so pleased that he has that opportunity,” concluded Portland-based Patience.

British sailors have established a proud tradition of excellence in Olympic competition, having won 55 medals – including 26 golds – since sailing made its debut at Paris 1900 with Team GB topping the overall Olympic sailing medal table.

Nominated by the Royal Yachting Association, Giles Scott, Nick Thompson and Alison Young have also been announced in the line-up for sailing as well as Hannah Mills, Saskia Clark and Bryony Shaw.

RYA Olympic manager Stephen Park said: “We’re delighted to be announcing the first sailing members of Team GB today.

“The road to Rio 2016 has just got one step closer for these eight athletes who have displayed fantastic performances during our qualification period so far – most notably Giles Scott who has dominated in his class for the past two years.

“It’s particularly pleasing to see Giles, Nick Thompson and Elliot Willis finally earning their Olympic call-ups after making such strong contributions to the British Sailing Team’s medal winning efforts over the years. They and all the other sailors named today have proven they have what it takes to win medals for Great Britain at the highest level, and their selections today allow them good time to focus their campaigns specifically on preparing for the challenging sailing venue that Rio undoubtedly is.”