Hannah Mills

Mills and Ainslie would later become Olympic team-mates in 2012 and most recently they have teamed up to take part in Sail GP, which has allowed women compete for the first time. She was involved last week in St Tropez and will travel for the next leg of the competition in Spain next month.

While it is her unwavering focus on success which dominates much of the conversation, there is a duality to her personality which comes through. Mills talks candidly about the controversy following the medal race in Tokyo, where their French rivals protested that Mills and McIntyre had colluded with the Polish crew. It was swiftly thrown out but Mills admits she was “gutted” that the charge had been levelled against them.

“To be honest I knew it was fine but I was just really sad because that moment of elation was changed, Elidh was in tears,” she says. “Why would we ever do that? If you think rationally – we just wouldn’t. We have raced against the French girls for 12 years. There has never been a problem. It was always respectful and it was sad that is what it came to.

“Then when we got the confirmation. I was buzzing but at the same time I was pretty gutted that they would think we would do that and that has been tough. I have always prided myself on being a fair and respectful sailor, so it hurt a lot.

“I do understand in the heat of battle people get emotional. We spoke afterwards and hugged it out. But for me it will always be difficult because of who I am. I really care about fairness and for that to be questioned is quite hurtful for me.”

Mills talks of trying to align her drive with how she prides herself on being a compassionate person and this comes through as she describes her bond with McIntyre, whose father Michael was a sailing gold medallist in Seoul in 1988.

After Rio, Mills had been on the verge of retiring until McIntyre persuaded her to team up for Tokyo. “I was thinking ‘why put it all on the line again? We have won gold. It is the life dream achieved, I’ll bow out on top.’ It is probably a very normal feeling given the situation as you are putting everything out there and you are dedicating three or four years of your life with no guarantees at the end.

“It took Eilidh ringing me nine months after Rio. I knew her very well as we trained against her for the Rio cycle. She said ‘I want to go to Tokyo and I want to go with you.’ I kept her on tenterhooks for a little while but I knew if I was going again I wanted it to be with her.

“I don’t think she will mind me saying but she used to have a lot of tears about things if something wasn’t going well on the water. She has worked exceptionally hard to get to a place where she can control that and she can put her energy into the solutions and making things better, which is amazing. She was exceptional at the games, she delivered the perfect Eilidh to win a gold medal.”

Mills admits to suffering from “the Olympic blues” after the London Games but, as she looks to the future, the girl who dreamt of nothing but medals has grown into a woman who sees life beyond the heat of competition, and looks forward to marrying fiance Nick Dempsey, himself a three-time Olympic wind-surfing medallist.

“‘What is success?’ is a question I ask myself a lot. Being the most successful female Olympic sailor is amazing, and I almost can’t believe it is real, but throughout my Olympic stuff I have been able to speak to psychologists and a lot of amazing people and have a reality check of what is happiness?”

“For me it is family time, being able to get out on the water, it is about having enough money – you can’t say that doesn’t matter because you need enough. Happiness is very personal to different people and it is very easy to get caught in the rush of life without being able to stop and ask ‘when am I happiest?’ I didn’t always have this perspective as I was unbelievably driven and competitive as a kid, it was non-stop, I didn’t take a second to come up for air and as you get older, your values change.

“There is so much racing for success and jealousy of other people in life. You should be happy for other people’s success; that is something I have learnt. When I was young I just wanted to win all the time. With female empowerment there is so much we can do to help each other up but it is hard because it is instilled in us to be competitive. Where I am at now is about inspiring others.”

Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sailing/2021/09/17/hannah-mills-interview-care-fairness-questioned-quite-hurtful/

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