Olympic champion McIntyre: I feared for my sailing future after brilliant Tokyo gold

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McIntyre and Hannah Mills will always be the final all-female crew to win Olympic gold in the 470
McIntyre and Hannah Mills will always be the final all-female crew to win Olympic gold in the 470

By Tom Harle

Olympic sailing champion Eilidh McIntyre feared for her livelihood when her boat class became mixed gender.

McIntyre and Hannah Mills will always be the final all-female crew to win Olympic gold in the 470.

Aiming to defend a very different title at the Paris 2024 Olympics, she is now building a partnership with Martin Wrigley that never felt possible.

“I thought I was going to lose my job, I thought I was going to be out,” said McIntyre. “I didn’t think the 470 was going to work this way round.”

Now McIntyre has embraced unexpected pioneer status and hitched her Olympic ambitions to the growing momentum of the mixed team movement.

“I think it’s unbelievably cool for the sport that we are combining two fleets, the best of the men’s and women’s fleets, and creating this new dynamic,” she said.

“It’s making competition really tough and it’s not as easy for a few teams to be dominant like they used to, so it’s really interesting.

“Every boat in the top ten is viable to go and win a gold medal and it’s going to make the racing over the next few years really fun and challenging.

“We’re proving that men and women are as good as each other and can perform both roles as well as each other. That’s really powerful.”

McIntyre campaigned for Tokyo with a point to prove as crew to the best helm in the world, with Mills already owning an Olympic gold and silver medal in the class.

She is now the senior member of the British 470 with Wrigley having been training partner to Tokyo Olympians Luke Patience and Chris Grube.

Her challenge for the Paris cycle is quite different - to embrace driving the excellence endemic in the British sailing team, while continuing to grow herself.

“The job feels harder now but it’s always hard, it’s always a challenge,” said McIntyre, speaking ahead of the release of Chasing Tokyoon July 28, an Olympic Channel film that documents the British Sailing Team’s build-up to last year’s Olympic Games.

“What’s totally different is that last time I was going in to sail with the Olympic champion and I’d won a lot of medals and felt like I was ready to push for this gold.

“I’ve proven I’ve won a gold medal and that I can do it but now the question is whether I can be part of creating and building the next good team.

“Can I pass the knowledge onto the next generation and work with them to see how close we can get?

“Martin has had a challenging start to his career and hasn’t been in a position to create good teams. The challenge is for us to do that together.

“In the build-up to Tokyo, Hannah knew exactly what she needed to do and I was just constantly striving to be the athlete I needed to be.

“It would be really easy for me now to neglect myself - but that would be a huge mistake.”

McIntyre and Wrigley have finished in the top ten at their first two regattas, coming tenth at Trofeo Princesa Sofia and eighth in France.

With European Championships slated for September and the World Championships in October, staying at the sharp end of the fleet remains the aim.

“I’d love us to win medals this year,” said McIntyre, “but if we are a couple of points off, then that shows we’re in a good position to get a jump over the winter.

“We’re already making plans for the winter and to train with the best, planning ahead knowing we might have a gap to bridge. I’d be happy if we’re in touching distance.”

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