Helena Lucas had a double celebration earlier this week, marking both her birthday and her selection for Rio 2016

Gold medallist Helena Lucas has been the first athlete selected to represent ParalympicsGB at Rio 2016.

Lucas, who recently turned 40, is no stranger to the history books after becoming the first GB sailor to win a Paralympic medal since the sport became a full part of the Paralympic programme in 2000.

The announcement that she will make her third Games appearance was made on Wednesday at the Cutty Sark in London.

It’s the culmination of a selection campaign in which Lucas produced consistent performances to prove her form, 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 RYA’s four qualification events, including silver at the 2014 IFDS World Championships and bronze in the 2.4mR Open World Championships.

Lucas was thrilled to have her name first on the team sheet, saying: “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 congratulated Lucas on her selection, saying:   “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.”

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, with competition for places in those classes continuing over the coming months.