HAVING won her second gold and third consecutive medal following yet another near-flawless performance in Enoshima Harbour, Hannah Mills, from Dinas Powys, is now the most successful female sailor in Olympic history.
Eilidh McIntrye, whose father Mike won an Olympic gold medal in the Star class in Seoul 33 years ago, partnered Mills as she led the 470 boat to a hat-trick of medals after silver in London and gold in Rio de Janeiro.
This new partnership was only formed in 2017 when Mills, who carried the flag for Team GB at the Tokyo opening ceremony 12 days ago, was approached by McIntrye and a new Olympic dream was born. They have since dominated the class, winning the World Championship in the same Japanese waters in 2019, before delivering a regatta here of unerring consistency.
As it turned out, the final medal race was something of a procession, with Mills and McIntyre starting well but keeping a close eye on France and Poland, their closest rivals, before coming in second at the halfway point.
Despite their slide to fifth, they remained in a commanding position overall.
However, France submitted a formal protest against GB after the race, alleging that GB and Poland had, in the closing stages, contrived to ensure Poland moved ahead of GB in the medal race to pip France for the silver. It is not yet known how long it will take the stewards to reach a verdict.
The decisive results had come on the penultimate day of sailing when their record of top three finishes in seven out of the 10 races paid dividends and all their main rivals were forced to count at least one sail outside the top 10. It suddenly meant a lead of 17 points which, barring any disaster in the final medal race, was unassailable for two sailors of their class.
After recieving her gold, Hannah told the BBC “It’s mad, It’s absolutely mad.
“Growing up, like a lot of Olympians, I dreamed of being here one day and standing on top of the podium.
“I’ve been able to do it twice, with Saskia before and Eilidh this time. I’ve had two incredible crews to sail with and I just feel really lucky.”
She added: “The team around us has been phenomenal, and a big shout out to the National Lottery and everyone who plays, without you guys we wouldn’t be here either.
“And the support back home has been unreal.”
It is Team GBs second-best Olympic tally after Beijing in 2008, when they won six medals, including four golds. This means that Team GB finish the regatta as the most successful single nation in the competition with five medals.
“It’s massive,” said Mills. “It’s been one of the hardest weeks of my life, I’m sure for Eilidh as well.
“Just every day feeling sick, not being able to eat and nerves building up.
“We’ve done it – it’s over. We’ve done what we came here to do. It’s amazing.”
The results were also reward for their fastidious preparation over recent years, with the British sailors hugely benefitting from a partnership that was formed shortly after the Rio games in 2016 with the coastal Japanese village of Hayama. Their local popularity has been evident by the sight each morning of school children and even cheerleaders applauding the British sailors onto their ribs before they take the seven-minute journey to Enoshima.
Before the Olympics Hannha said: “I want to inspire young female sailors to break into this world. That’s my inspiration. I am still just about young enough for Paris. The Olympics is such an amazing and rewarding experience, but I wouldn’t want to go for it half-heartedly and I am really hoping that the work with sustainability leads to what I do next.” Mills had contemplated retirement after Rio and took a fortnight away from her Olympic preparations just three months before these games to to train with Ainslie’s SailGP team.
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