It has been a massive day for the Team GB sailors in Tokyo with medal success in three out of the four medal races.
Two golds, one silver and Emma Wilson’s bronze from earlier in the week brings the current medal total to four for the Team GB sailors. With another medal guaranteed in the final races of the Olympic sailing competition tomorrow, it’s been a brilliant week for the British Sailing Team.
It was another light wind day with 6-10 knots of southerly wind, but unlike yesterday there was enough for all racing to go ahead.
Dylan Fletcher and Stu Bithell took gold in the 49er in the very last metre of the medal race. They beat Germany to the line which meant not only had they won the medal race, but they had also put the boat they needed between them and former champions; Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (NZL) to secure gold.
“It’s been super close all week in racing and today just showed off what it’s been like,” said Dylan Fletcher (33). “It was intense, it was close, but it was my aim to be sat here now as Olympic champion.
“We haven’t raced against them [the New Zealand team] since pre covid down in Australia where we were selected early and we had to set about our campaign all around the gold medal. So there was a bit of nerves, for everyone I’m sure, not being able to race them. But to come here and deliver is just a huge testament to all of our team behind the scenes to make this happen, so I’m incredibly proud of the whole team.”
Stu Bithell (34) continued: “Dylan talks about it’s been a long road since Rio, five years, but for me it’s been nine years. I missed out unfortunately in the last cycle to Dylan, so yeah it’s been a long part of my career really, chipping away and working hard. This is my last Olympics, almost certainly. As you can image it’s so nice to go away with the gold.”
Defending champion Giles Scott also had a tense finish coming back from a tentative start in the Finn. In fear of being disqualified for a false start he recrossed the line to start again which left him at the back of the fleet. He fought back to fourth in the final stages of the race to confirm the gold.
The 34-year-old commented: “It was absolutely the greatest pressure I’ve ever felt. Without a doubt. I made it literally by the skin of my teeth. It is was down to last leeward mark, last reach, it was properly to the wire.
“I knew that down that last run I had to make good headway. I made the call to go down the right-hand side, which was the tricky side to go down because it was down current. But I made a few nice calls and a few well-timed gybes and just, just, just sneaked round that group, which was enough.”
It was the last ever Olympic race for the Finn as the class won’t feature at Paris 2024.
“As a nation we’ve won every [Finn] gold since 2000. I’m so, so proud. There’s such amazing heritage in the Finn, it’s such a shame it is leaving the games. And to follow legends like Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy, they were my heroes growing up, so yeah, it’s a good moment,” he continued.
John Gimson (38) and Anna Burnet (28) took silver in the Nacra 17 after finishing fifth in today’s medal race. They needed to beat their Italian rivals with boats between them to take gold, but could only finish one place ahead.
A spectacular silver after Gimson’s 20-year Olympic journey: “The journey has been worth every minute,” he explained. “I’ve done it for 20 years to get here and an unbelievable amount of people have helped me along the way, and just for them to say thank you, I’m glad we did. A lot of people have invested heavily in us so I’m happy we followed through for them.
“Twice my discipline got dropped as a class. As a youngster just finishing a cycle, getting ready to go and do another campaign. The second time it happened I was questioning my life decisions. When I’d spent all my money and sold my house just to try and do it. But right now, everything was worth it, literally everything was worth it.”
Anna Burnet added: “The team has had an incredible day and seeing the 49er guys win a medal just before we went out, well John found it a bit stressful, but I found it hugely inspiring. I’m so happy to be a part of this team that is performing so well. It feels incredible, hard to describe.
“John, well he keeps telling everyone he’s been doing it [sailing] for 20 years, but honestly there’s no one I think in sport that deserves a medal in the Olympics more than John Gimson. And I’m so happy to have helped him to achieve what he really, really deserves so it’s amazing for me to be part of that.”
Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre secured a medal in the women’s 470 and will aim to make that gold in the final race of Tokyo 2020. A third and a ninth leaves them 14 points ahead of second place and 27 points clear of fourth.
Luke Patience and Chris Grube maintain a medal hope with another two top ten finishes. They sit fifth, nine points from the podium places.
The men’s 470 medal race will be at 6:33am BST tomorrow (04 August 2021), followed by the final race of the Olympic sailing competition, with Mills and McIntyre going for gold at 7:33am BST.
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All images credit World Sailing