Schroders-sponsored sailing duo Hannah and Eilidh scooped gold in the 470 women's class at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This makes Hannah Mills the greatest female sailor in Olympic history, adding to her gold at Rio 2016 and silver at London 2012. And for Eilidh McIntyre it's an impressive gold in her Olympic debut.
Hot off the back of their success, we caught up with them to hear about their Olympic journey and get the inside scoop on what it’s like competing on the world stage during a global pandemic. It wasn’t all plain sailing…
Tell us about the atmosphere at Tokyo
Eilidh: The whole place had this incredible Olympic aura about it, there was Tokyo 2020 branding everywhere. Everyone coming together after so long and feeling that team spirit was like nothing we’ve experienced before, it was so powerful and supportive, everyone pulled together.
Hannah: I thought no spectators at the games would be a real shame but once we were racing we were out on the ocean, and focused on delivering our best performance on the water.
You had quite the sailing journey:
Eilidh: We teamed up at the end of 2017 but it hasn’t all been plain sailing! We’ve had our up and downs - like any Olympic campaign - and we changed our coach. We won the World Championships in 2018, but in our final Worlds before the Olympics we came fifth. We knew we had to deliver our best performance to win. All with the added pressure of my Olympic debut and Hannah’s dream of becoming the most successful female sailor, whilst not knowing if the Games would happen.
Hannah: We managed to sail a consistent regatta to guarantee ourselves with a medal going into the last medal race. But we still had to deliver a good performance to win, which is always nerve-wracking in sailing because anything can happen.
Eilidh: A beautiful moment was putting a gold medal on Hannah. Standing on top of the podium watching the flag being raised arm in arm is something I’ll never forget. The fact that family and friends weren't out there with us only added to the emotion―I spent a lot of time thinking about everyone back at home and those who supported us on our spectacular journey.
Schroders have been incredibly supportive and we simply wouldn’t have been standing on the top of that podium without you!
Hannah: Carrying the flag was unbelievable, especially having Eilidh there to walk in the Opening Ceremony with me was really special.
Eilidh McIntyre (left) with sailing partner Hannah Mills (right)
Hannah: I spent the entire month before the Games and during the event incredibly stressed―I was so nervous but excited, it was exhausting. I really struggled to eat, which wasn’t ideal for the physical days, I pretty much lived off smoothies that the support team would make me before racing.
Eilidh: When we were celebrating that we’d won gold after the medal race our coach Joe told us that the French team were protesting us for slowing down in the final race, which was quickly dismissed. Ultimately, that situation ended up with the French getting bronze and the Polish getting silver.
Hannah and I had been trying to get across the finish line safely without getting in anyone else's way, so it was a heart-wrenching moment, but we understand that in the heat of battle, emotions run high.
How have you been getting on since the Games?
Eilidh: I’m so proud of what we achieved. But it’s been lonely coming back and all of a sudden you’re on your own every day without the huge supportive team. I’m just letting myself feel every emotion and ride it out, spending time with friends and family, whilst taking my time to think about my future goals.
Hannah: I watched all of Tokyo 2020 and I was mesmerised watching the inspiring athletes at the Paralympics, it’s certainly helped my post Olympic blues! I’m just so proud to be part of such an inclusive team, sport really must be for all. You can’t help but be inspired by the resilience, determination and performances of these magnificent athletes.
How can sport be harnessed to make a wider impact?
Hannah: As a founder of the Big Plastic Pledge, I was saddened to see the plastic waste in the water at both Rio and Tokyo - and everywhere we go now. It reaffirmed to me just how important it is to use the power of sport to make a difference, and why working with Schroders is so invaluable.
The solution to the issue of plastic pollution starts high up. Investors have the power to hold companies accountable for their business practices and can change the behaviour of companies to be part of the solution to the bigger plastic problem.
Hannah: I’m enjoying soaking in the celebrations for now and doing a lot of foiling – it’s like flying on water!
Eilidh: I’m taking some time to think about whether I want to campaign for Paris 2024. Although the celebratory karaoke was certainly entertaining that definitely won’t be my next career!
Source : https://www.schroders.com/en/insights/corporate-responsibility/schroders-sponsored-sailing-duo-on-their-journey-to-olympic-champions/1018