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Sailors picked as first Team GB athletes for Tokyo 2020

by British Sailing Team 2 Oct 05:12 PDT
First Team GB athletes selected for Tokyo 2020 © British Sailing Team

Gold medallists Hannah Mills and Giles Scott are among 12 sailors named by the British Olympic Association (BOA) as the first Team GB athletes selected for Tokyo 2020.

The Rio 2016 champions are joined by a host of elite sailors representing eight of the 10 Olympic sailing classes, as the team is announced at Haven Holiday Park, Rockley Park in Poole.

A Tokyo 2020 medal for Mills would make her the most successful female Olympic sailor of all time. She will look to defend her crown in the 470 Women's event alongside crew Eilidh McIntyre, who makes her Olympic debut 32 years after her dad Mike won gold for GB in the Star class.

Mills and McIntyre have rarely been off the podium since teaming up in 2017, with their success culminating in victory at the 2019 World Championships and silver at the Ready Steady Tokyo test event this summer.

Scott has also enjoyed a run of success in 2019, claiming his third Finn class European title and a bronze at Ready Steady Tokyo.

Returning for another tilt at Olympic glory are London 2012 silver medallists Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell.

Patience, sailing in his third Olympics, will compete in the 470 Men class alongside Rio 2016 crew Chris Grube, while Bithell will fly the flag for Britain in the 49er class with Rio Olympian Dylan Fletcher.

Olympian Charlotte Dobson returns in the 49er FX, joined by Saskia Tidey who represented Ireland at Rio 2016 before joining the British team in 2017.

Both representatives in the RS:X windsurfer class are newcomers to the Olympics: Tom Squires and Emma Wilson, who at 20 years old is the youngest athlete announced.

Squires takes up the mantle from veteran Olympian Nick Dempsey, the most successful Olympic windsurfer of all time with five Games and three medals to his name.

Wilson, the daughter of 1988 and 1992 Olympic windsurfer Penny Way, will look to win Britain's first Olympic medal in women's windsurfing since Bryony Shaw's bronze at Beijing 2008.

Alison Young, the 2015 Laser Radial World Champion, earns her third Team GB call-up to round off the first wave of sailing selections for Tokyo 2020.

Britain has a rich history of excellence in Olympic competition, having won 58 medals - including 28 golds - since sailing made its debut at Paris 1900. Team GB currently tops the overall Olympic sailing medal table.

The selected sailors are:

  • Giles Scott: Finn (Men's One Person Dinghy Heavy)
  • Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre: 470 Women (Women's Two Person Dinghy)
  • Luke Patience and Chris Grube: 470 Men (Men's Two Person Dinghy)
  • Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey: 49er FX (Women's Skiff)
  • Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell: 49er (Men's Skiff)
  • Alison Young: Laser Radial (Women's One Person Dinghy)
  • Emma Wilson: RS:X Women (Women's Windsurfer)
  • Tom Squires: RS:X Men (Men's Windsurfer)
Mark England, Team GB's Chef de Mission for Tokyo 2020, said: "We are delighted to announce the first 12 athletes who have been selected to Team GB for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

"Sailing made its debut at the Paris 1900 Games and British athletes have excelled on the Olympic stage ever since. The sailors we have announced today have a wealth of experience, including reigning Olympic Champions Hannah Mills and Giles Scott and I look forward to seeing what they can do in Enoshima next summer."

Mark Robinson, Team GB Sailing Team Leader and RYA Olympic Performance Manager, said: "We're thrilled to be announcing the first sailing members of Team GB today. These athletes have all proven themselves in their class and every single one of them is capable of returning from Tokyo 2020 with a medal in their hands. There is great experience within the sailing team, from our Rio 2016 gold medallists back to defend their crowns to experienced Olympians who know what it will take to taste victory in Tokyo.

"We are also delighted to welcome new talent who have immense potential towards achieving Team GB's objectives in this cycle and beyond. Selection at this point of the cycle will allow these athletes to have maximum preparation time in the run-up to Tokyo 2020, putting Team GB in the best possible position to rule the waves."

Giles Scott, 32, from Huntingdon, Cambs, now living Portsmouth, Hants: "Selection for Team GB is a massive deal. It's what we all strive towards as athletes. To be one of the first team members to be named is cool - it's the start of getting the nation excited about the Games. What I noticed last time around was when you turn up ready to go to the Games, you don't really know each other and other athletes from the other sports but you are part of this big thing and all aiming towards the same goal of getting medals. It's a really special thing.

"It's certainly been different for me this cycle as there was an added expectation that I would qualify as I'm the reigning Olympic champion. The hard thing is trying not to get caught up in that hype and realise things aren't that different. It doesn't matter what has happened in the past, you have to prove now you are the best person to go and do it."

Hannah Mills, 31, from Cardiff, Wales, now living Poole, Dorset: "Selection is amazing and it's a big part of the Olympic journey. Whether it's been a tight decision or not it's always a big step and to get selected with Eilidh who hasn't been to an Olympic Games before makes it a really exciting part of the journey.

"Everything this year has been about qualifying and getting that spot for the Olympic Games. Being in Japan this summer was partly about that but also partly about how we can perform in the venue at the right time of year. We learned so much this summer and did enough to get selected but it also gave us a lot of areas of focus for this winter and going in to the Games next year.

"Saskia [Clark, Mills' London 2012 and Rio 2016 crew] and I had an amazing time together we achieved so much and had an incredible time doing it. But equally I have loved every minute sailing with Eilidh and it has been a different kind of challenge. We bounce off each other in a different way and I have learned so much more about myself - my strengths and weaknesses, Eilidh's also. It's just such a special thing to campaign for a gold medal with someone as you create such a bond with that person."

Eilidh McIntyre, 25, from Hayling Island, Hants, now living Portland, Dorset: "It feels quite surreal to finally be selected - it hasn't really hit me yet. It is my dream to go to an Olympic Games but more than that it is my dream to win gold. It feels like the hard work is about to start.

"Getting that phone call, it took a while for it to sink in. Winning the worlds and winning a silver at the test event you kind of hope that it's coming but I don't think it was really until I phoned my family that me and everyone burst in to tears. That's when I got that 'I'm going' moment. Now we can say that two members of the family have been to an Olympic Games and there's not many families that can say that.

"It's been unreal this year. I really thought that this time cycle it was my time and my time to push it and we have been in with a shot of a medal in every regatta we have been at, so it has felt like we have made massive strides to winning a gold medal next year."

Luke Patience, 33, from Rhu, Scotland, now living Southampton, Hants: "It's an emotional rollercoaster waiting for that call. You know there are meetings being held and you are just waiting for news one way or the other. That's the third call I've had with that news in my life and you still never get used to it. You never expect to be on the Olympic start line but when it is confirmed it's one of those little moments in life that doesn't get any better - to be at the greatest show on Earth.

"Getting the call early really gives you a boost. The crucial thing it gives you is more time. By that confirmation they are saying 'here is more time'. So instead of being in a process and thinking about something different like winning a trials or selection you are now gifted extra months - that's a massive mindset change for an athlete. You aren't distracted and are given a ticket to focus on the one regatta you want to focus on for four years.

"I feel like I have everything to prove. I'm content with my abilities. I'm aware if I get things right I can be the best in the world in this sport. But, ultimately, I want a gold medal. London for me is a wonderful memory, but now I am hell bent on getting a gold in Tokyo."

Chris Grube, 34, from Chester, Cheshire, now living Hamble, Hants: "This selection is three years of hard work coming to its conclusion. Luke and I got together just before Rio and about a year after the Games we said we would team up again and go for Tokyo. This is just the culmination of all that time and effort we have put in, so I'm really pleased to be going. It's not the end of the hard work, we realise the mountain we have to climb, but we are going to give it everything.

"When we got the call for Rio we were ecstatic and this time we were a little more reserved. We've been there and got the t-shirt but this time it's more about going to get a medal. We are pleased to be on the start line and are going to give it everything.

"Last time was a whirlwind coming in to the Games. This time again we have changed a few things and had some ups and downs like any journey. We haven't achieved exactly what we wanted to and got the results we wanted, but this summer has shown us we are hanging in there and we can take everything we have learned and put it in to a good performance next year."

Charlotte Dobson, 33, from Rhu, Scotland, now living Portland, Dorset: "It's amazing to be part of Team GB again in what will be my second Games. It's just brilliant to have a long run in to the Olympic Games so I'm delighted.

"This time around the announcement feels more like an attack on the podium. Last time out it kind of felt like it was all about the experience and what it would be like at an Olympic Games. Although that was never what the goal was, that's how it actually felt at the time, whereas this time it feels like a stepping stone to a bigger goal next year. It's good to have a long preparation but it is also the time for us to really get our heads down and work.

"When we get given that Team GB kit I know I'm just going to be so excited to know that me and Saskia will be wearing it together and that it marks the beginning of the last push in to the Games for us. It comes with a little bit of trepidation because we know how much work there is still left to do but it will be a really proud moment for our team to be wearing that kit together and to start to feel part of something bigger."

Saskia Tidey, 25, from Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, now living Portland, Dorset: "Selection for Tokyo 2020 is a massive milestone in our campaign. It seems like a long journey to get to this point but it's flown by. It was a challenging winter getting things right before heading into trials so it is so satisfying to see that the hard work has paid off. I'm so excited for the next stage of the journey, and so proud of Charlotte and myself that we stuck to our plan and now have the chance to go for gold at Tokyo 2020. It is a dream come true.

"I've got goosebumps just thinking about pulling on a Team GB tracksuit. It's been such an epic journey to get to this point - it hasn't been easy and we've been challenged every single part of the way, but that has just made us even stronger and put us in the best place going forward. I could not be more proud to be representing Team GB, and to do it with Charlotte at the helm."

Dylan Fletcher, 31, from Thames Ditton, Surrey, now living Portland Dorset: "This will be both mine and Stu's second Olympic Games and nothing can really prepare you for that first Olympic experience. I went to Rio with Alain (Sign) so this time around it will be a bit different and now we go with one thing in mind - to get a medal, and preferably a gold one. It's almost a bit of a relief that this first stage is done.

"It's massive to just get the spot - it's such a competitive class and we were pushed hard. We were happy that when the pressure was on we could produce the results we needed to. We are proud of how we handled that pressure and that will help us with the immense pressure of the Games.

"There's no doubt that on the plane home from Rio with the rest of Team GB I was so bitterly disappointed that it gave me this fire in my belly - more than I had ever had before to come back and campaign harder to right the wrong I felt I had in the last cycle. We wanted to show we could fight for a medal and be proud to represent our country again, and now we've got that chance. When we got the call we gave each other a hug - it was a big weight off our shoulders. It's hard to put into words what it feels like to be going to a second Olympic Games, and our first together, representing Team GB and that British flag. It's a special event and a special feeling."

Stuart Bithell, 33, from Rochdale, Manchester, now living Portland, Dorset: "The call to say you've been picked for Team GB was the second best phone call I've had in my life. The first was back in the winter of 2011 when I got the same type of call to tell me I'd been selected for London 2012.

"Obviously this time it was amazing. We have been working really hard to get the job done early because we believe that would give us the best chance of a gold medal in 2020. We worked and got the results we said we wanted to get to be selected so we are chuffed to achieve that and now we look forward to the year ahead to the real thing.

"When Dylan and myself got together the goal was a gold medal - full stop. We want to be the best in the world and we have extreme competition in the 49er, especially with the Kiwis who have been totally dominant in the class for the past six years. If we give our best performance we will be in there fighting for a gold medal, and if we do that and don't win we can still say we did our best. It's going to be my last Olympic Games and it's just rounding off that Olympic journey for me so it's a bit emotional."

Tom Squires, 26, from Kingston Bagpuize, Oxfordshire, now living Portland, Dorset: "I'm very excited - I'm the first British male windsurfer whose name isn't Nick Dempsey to represent Team GB at an Olympic Games since 1996! I actually didn't have such a great time this year and there were times when I felt I didn't perform well, but this summer I got some great training in and really came on in the areas I was struggling in. There were even times where I thought about giving it all up and getting an adult job, but I managed to pull through in the end and qualify for a Games.

"I'm just super happy all my training has paid off. Now I've qualified of course I am going for a medal. If you had asked me this time last year I would have said I wouldn't be in with a shout of a medal. But my winter training, with some of the best guys in the world, really made me think I can hang with them and get a medal now. Early selection means I can look at how people react and handle the pressure of big events in the knowledge they are still fighting for places and I have mine. I can really concentrate and watch how they perform.

"I don't feel pressure following on from Nick, all the pressure I feel is just what I put on myself every day. When you are selected early like we are you have to try and rise to the occasion, grit your teeth and work hard, and because of that you don't really feel pressure because you are just training so hard."

Emma Wilson, 20, from Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, now living Weymouth, Dorset: "I'm really happy. It feels a bit surreal - going to the Olympic Games is a dream I've had since I was a kid. I was always in to sport in school, I tried to do as many sports as I possibly could, and I saw Kelly Holmes win her gold medal on the TV and just thought - 'I want to be like her.'

"I didn't think I would be selected to be honest. I was just sitting in Japan the day after the Test Event medal race and Ian Walker came and told me he wanted a chat - luckily that chat was a good one and I was so happy. It was a nice moment in the end.

"I think my mum is pretty proud of me. She is a part of it as well though. She, my dad, my brother, they are all a part of this journey and help me so much. And now I have this relief that I can go to an Olympic Games after everyone's hard work."

Alison Young, 32, from Bewdley, Worcestershire, now living Portland, Dorset: "It's a huge privilege to be able to go to a third Games as part of a fantastic team. Each Games has been different and I'm sure Tokyo will be different again. There is a new group of people and a different environment, so it presents different challenges but it's always exciting to be representing your country.

"I am one of the older guys in the team this time around - not really sure how that happened - but there is a good mix of people. Some have had more experience, some have medalled at a Games before and we have a couple of young sailors so there is always an opportunity to learn off everyone else in that environment.

"There has definitely been some learnings from the last two Games, and over the cycles as well, but in a way it's been less of an emphasis about winning an Olympic medal and just trying to find my potential and execute the best performance I can come Games time."

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