By Rob Cole
Hannah Mills has been handed a ticket to make Olympic history in Tokyo next year by becoming the first woman to win three sailing medals at the Games.
The 31-year-old former Howell’s School, Cardiff, pupil struck silver in the 470 class in London in 2012 and then followed them up with gold in Rio four years later alongside Saskia Clark.
Next year she will head to Japan in tandem with Eilidh McIntyre in pursuit of another medal.
The two 470 crew members were among 12 British sailors selected for the Tokyo Olympics this week and if Mills can get onto the podium once again she will become the most successful female Olympic sailor of all time.
And the signs are pretty good , with the pair winning World Championship gold, an Olympic Test silver medal, and more than a month spent sailing the Tokyo 2020 waters where they hope to win next year.
In August they followed up their triumph in the World Championships with a second place in the Olympic dress rehearsal behind French pair Aloise Retornaz and Camille Lecointre.
As both regattas were staged on the course where they will chase gold next year, they have certainly got their bearings.
That was Mills’ second world title, having won in 2012, and she was also voted the World Female Sailor of the Year in 2016 along with Clark in the wake of their golden triumph in Rio.
Having got a feel for the Japanese waters, she simply can’t wait to try to add to her medal collection next year.
“The sailing venue is phenomenal – it’s just amazing,” says Mills.
“This bay is literally open to the Pacific Ocean, so we get some of the biggest waves we’ve ever sailed in. I thought Rio delivered, but then in Japan we started thinking, ‘Oh my God!’
“You catch some of these waves and you’re like, ‘I don’t want to be on this because we’re going to go straight down into the bottom of the ocean’! It’s just wacky.
“The Olympics are just the most incredible thing. I always knew that I had more in me after taking time out after Rio, but I’m putting it all on the line.”
Fellow Welsh sailor Chris Grube will also be competing in the 470 class in the men’s race. He is teaming up once again with Luke Patience four years on from their Rio partnership.
The Tokyo Olympics take place between 24 July and 9 August 2020 and the sailors are the first British athletes to be selected for the Games.
Britain is the Olympics’ most successful sailing nation, having won 58 medals, including 28 golds, and will be represented in eight of the 10 classes.
The 2020 team was announced in Dorset at the venue where the sailing events were held in 2012.
Team GB’s chef de mission, Mark England, said the team was “one of the most talented” in the 120-year history of British Olympic sailing.
“Great Britain has fielded sailors in the Games since 1900 and that connectivity is really important. Next year’s team will compete on the same water as our 1964 team, when Keith Musto won a silver medal,” said England.
“The team have been through a rigorous selection process over the last couple of years and whilst it is a blend of newcomers and experienced sailors, it does include within it world champions and four Olympic medallists.
“We believe it is one of the most talented sailing teams that we’ve ever taken to an Olympic Games.”
Quota places for Tokyo’s 10 classes were decided in 2018, with qualifying following during the world championships this summer.
Selection provides the rubber stamp, with the next 10 months giving necessary time for athletes to practise and plan for conditions in Tokyo.
British 2020 Olympic Sailing Squad
Finn – Giles Scott
470 women – Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre
470 men – Luke Patience and Chris Grube
49er FX – Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey
49er – Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell
Laser Radial – Alison Young
RS:X Women – Emma Wilson
RS:X Men – Tom Squires