'Seeing dad's gold medal every day inspired me': Eilidh McIntyre secures golden dynasty with sailing triumph

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Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre celebrate their win - GETTY IMAGES
Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre celebrate their win - GETTY IMAGES

Since the age of 10, Eilidh McIntyre's Olympic-winning ambition had been staring her in the face as soon as she got out of bed. Immediately outside her room still hangs a gold medal, encased in a gilded frame, that her father, Mike, won at the 1988 Seoul Games.

The ultimate motivation has now paid off after she sailed into the record books to seal Britain's first father-daughter golden dynasty, leaving her father "proud as punch" Mike described to Telegraph Sport how Eilidh, 27, had fulfilled "a proper lifelong dream" in her triumph alongside Hannah Mills.

"It's just fantastic," he said, insisting that his feat 33 years ago in the Star class had helped her believe that taking the crown in the 470 boat was within sight.

"She often talks about the fact that growing up with a gold medal actually made it feel much more achievable because there is one in the family," he explained. "It feels like something that actually can be done."

Eilidh, whose instructions from her father had been "be bold and brave" prior to the final, had first revealed on Tuesday that the gold medal was "outside my bedroom at home".

"When I walk out of my bedroom there’s my dad’s gold medal on the wall," she added. Her father, she said, was "my inspiration my entire life".

Speaking afterwards, Mike insisted the medal was put up in that sport at their Hayling Island home only because "it just seemed like a convenient place to be".

"We only realised last year that it was quite so visible," he laughed. However, coincidence or not, Eilidh's ambition to land gold at the Olympics was cemented by the age of 12.

"She expressed the fact that she wanted to do this, a very long time ago, and then she switched into the 470 when she was just 15," he explained.

"She'd been sailing it for 12 years, and skipped all the youth sailing and everything else to focus on doing this. I'm proud as punch, really, proud as can be. It's an absolutely remarkable achievement. For both Eilidh and Hannah, this was always about winning a gold, nothing else."

Mike McIntyre celebrates at Hayling Island Sailing Club after his daughter Eilidh and Hannah Mills won Olympic gold - PA
Mike McIntyre celebrates at Hayling Island Sailing Club after his daughter Eilidh and Hannah Mills won Olympic gold - PA

During the hottest day of the Games so far amid 90 per cent humidity, there were joyous scenes as the pair celebrated their triumph by leaping into the waters. The triumph means Mills, who was the flag-bearer at the opening ceremony, is now the most successful female sailor in Olympic history.

However, for Eilidh's father, who watched the early hours scenes on the TV with 150 others crammed into Helensburgh Sailing Club, there is frustration at event changes for Paris 2024 that means his daughter will need to race in a different format, rather than defending her crown.

"I'm not at all happy about the changes have been made for Paris," he added. "I think it's not right what they're doing at all - to bring in kite surfing with two medals instead of effectively two sailing medals. I'm not at all happy about that. I think World Sailing's really letting us down there, frankly.

"A lot of sailors are very upset about it. I think that's not a good change and of course it means the girls can't go.... I don't think Hannah would want to necessarily go on any way, but the 470 next time is just a single class or a mixed medal, instead of being two different fleets. I just think that's wrong."

After getting off the phone with his daughter, he described her as "absolutely full of it - it's brilliant". Gold comes just four years after the partnership with Mills was formed. They have since dominated the class, winning the World Championship in the same Japanese waters in 2019, before delivering a regatta here of unerring consistency.

Mike and Caroline McIntyre had a nervous wait before their daughter secured gold - PA
Mike and Caroline McIntyre had a nervous wait before their daughter secured gold - PA

Holding up her own gold medal, she added: "I’ve always dreamed of having one of these and here I am and I just can’t believe it. It’s been such a fight and such a long journey and it feels like 25 years of dreaming."

The final medal race turned into something of a procession, with the pair starting off by keeping a careful eye on France and Poland, their nearest challengers, before reaching halfway in second. They later slipped back to fifth but still always in a commanding overall position.

On another night of family affairs for Team GB, Harry Charles, meanwhile, competed in the individual showjumping final nine years after his father Peter helped Great Britain win showjumping gold. He was unable to match Eilidh's feat with a medal, but Britain was able to celebrate Ben Maher winning gold on the brilliant Explosion W.

Other parent-daughter combinations at these Games include Emma Wilson, who secured a windsurfing bronze after her mother Penny Way, a former world champion, secured sixth and seventh spots in 1992 and 1996.

Distance runner Eilish McColgan missed out in her first effort to live up to her mother Liz's silver in the 1988 Games when she failed to make the final of the 5,000m in Tokyo following an underwhelming performance - but she has another chance in the 10,000m on Saturday.

The family links do not end there today. In total at these Games, a record eight sibling pairs flew out to Japan in Team GB colours.

How Britain ruled the Olympic waves - thanks to a remote coastal Japanese town

By Jeremy Wilson

There was a rather special surprise awaiting the British sailors last Saturday morning, the first day of the Olympic regatta when medals would be won and lost.

The coastal town of Hayama, where the team and support staff have been staying, had laid out bunting, the streets were lined and a group of local cheerleaders, complete with pom poms, were performing on the pier. It took a few moments for the penny to drop.

The locals had turned out in force for the British team and, as they boarded a small fleet of ribs for the start of the most critical races of their lives, they genuinely felt like they were departing a home from home.

Five days later and they were returning from Enoshima for the last time with five medals, including three gold, to end the regatta with a better haul than Rio de Janeiro or London and as the most successful single nation in Japan.

They were also convinced that Hayama, which is nestled just four miles along the coast from the Enoshima Yacht Harbour, had been integral to their success.

Not just for the warm local welcome, but a whole series of practical and logistical advantages that had been the culmination of four years of planning.

The partnership with Hayama was first forged after Rio when the Royal Yachting Association, mindful of the unpredictable and unique racing conditions in Enoshima wanted to create a base from which the sailors could spend long weeks and months in Japan.

Even in the early build-up, long before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, the sight of British sailors and staff cycling around the local area had become as common-place as the ‘Go Team GB’ signs that had been crafted by local schoolchildren.

Emma Wilson, a 22-year-old bronze medallist in windsurfing, loved the quiet remoteness of the area and, pre-Covid, would cycle out to local spots and surf for fun.

Emma Wilson with her bronze medal - PA
Emma Wilson with her bronze medal - PA

Hannah Mills found the scarcity of restaurants, cafes and bars somewhere testing but it was during these training camps that she was able to prepare with Eilidh McIntyre in quite fastidious depth for what lay ahead. This even stretched to the development of an innovative two-way communication system, which recorded everything they said to each during a day out on the water. They would then listen back to their conversations both to analyse the on-water partnership and then develop what they call a language of their own. In the heat of battle during Wednesday's medal race, the value of their synergy was obvious as Mills, the helm, calmly guided both the boat and McIntyre towards Olympic gold.

The beauty of Hayama was that it was separate from the hustle and bustle of Enoshima, a popular tourist resort, but still in range of the Olympic sailing venue by rib in just seven minutes. The drive takes more like half-an-hour. That saving has been invaluable during competition, as has the local business centre that has been turned into bespoke accommodation.

It has included several physio rooms and even a chill-out area, complete with a table-tennis table. Mills, incidentally, is apparently as competitive with a table-tennis bat in her hand as she is while holding the rudder of her 470 boat. The RYA sent out nine 40ft containers, containing boats and kit, several months ago. Support staff have included everything from the usual sports scientists and medics to even a meteorologist, whose planning stretched to analysing the size of the swell that would be created by a typhoon on the opposite end of Japan. Most of Britain’s rivals in Japan were limited to government hotels and driving each day either by taxi or coach.

And, with much of the world locked down during the past 18 months, and restrictions on overseas visitors to Japan and their hotels, the trust that had been established locally meant that additional permission was granted for the British sailors to stay, provided that they remained within their own bubble and only went out to sail. It meant minimising vital lost weeks on the Japanese waters. The results have been evident over recent days. “Our UK Government target is just ‘medals’ – it doesn’t matter about the colour,” said performance director Mark Robinson. “[But] for us, as the British Sailing Team, it’s important to be the top nation, which generally speaking means winning two golds. The target was four to seven medals but the question was ‘can we get the colours?’ That was what we wanted.”

'I've been nervous for weeks': History maker Mills opens up on her pre-Olympics fears

By Jeremy Wilson

Winter in Cardiff is as far removed as you could possibly imagine from 35 degree heat in Japan but, for Hannah Mills, the feeling when she woke up on Tuesday morning was at least comparable.

“I woke early - it felt like Christmas….but a really nervous Christmas,” said Mills, who then revealed how nerves in the five weeks leading up to the Olympics had left her struggling to eat or sleep.

“Will Santa come?” asked Eilidh McIntyre, her sailing partner on the women’s 470 boat and, by 8.10am UK time, they had their answer. A gold medal apiece had been delivered - the second in successive Games for Mills which, to also follow silver in London with Saskia Clark, makes her the most successful female sailor in Olympic history.

And yet what had seemed for all the world like a dominant and almost serene procession to victory did briefly become mired in controversy.

Their French rivals, Camille Lecointre and Aloise Ratornaz, were furious at how Poland had overtaken the Team GB boat in the closing stages of the final medal race. It did not matter to Mills and McIntrye, who had already built a commanding lead over the previous 10 races, but it did deprive the French of silver.

They filed a protest, suggesting that they had been conspired against but, after an anxious 40 minutes of deliberations, the cheers from the Great Britain camp signalled official confirmation that the race judges had seen nothing wrong. Mills said that the French had later apologised and, by the time of a delayed presentation, there were smiles all around.

The French insisted they had used their “right” to protest “when you have doubts about what happened”. They felt that the British team had slowed dramatically and wanted the jury to verify what had happened.

The replays duly supported the British explanation that Poland had simply gained priority on the inside and so they had ceded space in order to avoid committing any infringement.

Hannah Mills and Eilidh Mcintyre celebrate after clinching gold  - AFP
Hannah Mills and Eilidh Mcintyre celebrate after clinching gold - AFP

It was a curious ending - Mills and McIntrye were adamant that they would never willingly give up a place - but one that would only interrupt rather than terminate their celebrations.

Their partnership had only been formed in 2017 when Mills, who had carried the flag for Team GB at the Tokyo opening ceremony, was approached by McIntrye. She says that it was the most nerve-racking phone call of her life but was direct in telling Mills, who had been contemplating retirement, what she wanted.

“I said, ‘I want to win gold with you and nothing else is going to do’. And here we are. That’s wicked.”

McIntyre’s father, Mike, had also won an Olympic gold medal in the Star class in Seoul 33 years ago and a second family gold had been his daughter’s ambition for as long as she can remember. The 1988 Olympic gold medal even hung outside her bedroom.

The decisive results here had come on the penultimate day of sailing when Mills and McIntrye’s unerring consistency in recording top three finishes in seven out of the 10 races left their French rivals trailing by 17 points. It added up to an unassailable lead for two sailors of such class.

Relief, said Mills, was the dominant emotion and she could not quite dare to believe that she was the most successful female sailor in Olympic history.

McIntrye and Mills spent numerous long months in Japan to prepare for these Games - REUTERS
McIntrye and Mills spent numerous long months in Japan to prepare for these Games - REUTERS

“We put everything we are into this. There are such incredible women’s sailors that I am sure that record will get trumped. Hopefully we are inspiring the next generation of women’s sailors - that is just as important to us.”

Asked why she had felt such nerves, Mills said: “I just wanted to win, be successful and make Eilidh, my team and everyone back home proud.”

The question of what next will also loom. The 470 class will become a mixed event at the Paris Olympics in 2024, when the sailing events are staged in Marseille, meaning that there is no possibility of continuing this partnership. Mills, who is 33, doubted that she would return to the Olympics but fully supports the introduction of more mixed events.

“I think it’s brilliant and super inspirational for kids to see men and women competing at the top together - sailing’s a great sport for mixed races,” she said.

Another option is following Sir Ben Ainslie and fellow Olympic gold medallist Giles Scott into inshore catamaran events like SailGP and the America’s Cup. They had no female competitors last year.

Mills is also hugely passionate about her environmental work and, after a week of sailing in the Japanese ocean, she departed with a warning for the world. “We are at a tipping point with what we are doing with our planet and ocean - we must do more or act now - otherwise it is unbearable to think what might happen,” she said.

As it happened

07:15 AM

Three sailing golds for GB in Tokyo

Overall then, as this regatta comes to an end, GB have won three golds at these Olympics in the sailing events, as well as a silver and a bronze. Five medals is a tremendous return, in such a competitive field.

07:06 AM

Joy for Team GB

But all eyes are on the GB pair, who are celebrating winning Great Britain's 14th gold medal of these Tokyo Games.

07:05 AM

Silver for Poland; France have to settle for bronze

Meanwhile, the French pair who began the day in second ultimately ended up missing out on silver as the Polish boat overtook GB on the water right at the end to pip the French to second overall. Switzerland, who won that medal race, moved up to fourth overall.

07:03 AM

History for Hannah Mills

Hannah Mills becomes Britain's most successful ever female Olympic sailor, adding gold in Tokyo to her gold in Rio and her silver in London. The Cardiff-born heroine and her team-mate, Olympic debutant Eilidh McIntyre jump into the water together, jubilant in their deserved celebrations.

07:00 AM

Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre win GOLD!

They've done it!

06:59 AM

Through the bottom gate

The 470 fleet pass through the bottom gate for the final time and make a slight turn towards the finish line. GB are slipping back, into fifth, but it won't impact on their bid for gold. Poland are edging above France into the silver medal position, as they all come up towards the line...

06:58 AM

Into the closing stages

They hook around the outer buoy for the final time, coming back downwind now to approach the final turn. GB are still in second spot, behind only the Swiss who are not in contention for a medal, and that will be more than good enough for GB to clinch the gold medal.

06:55 AM

GB looking strong

What an impressive performance this is so far, from Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre. I wonder what's going through their minds now, as the edge closer and closer to Gold. What a day for them both. This is McIntyre's first Olympic Games. The 27-year-old from Hampshire is on top of the world in Sagami Bay. As for Hannah Mills, she's been in this position before, in Rio, and she's so close to retaining the title.

06:49 AM

Around the second mark

Things are still looking good for Team GB, who are in control of their own destiny. They've gone around the second of the four marks they'll have to navigate, coming up to the halfway point, still in second spot. France remain sixth.

06:46 AM

The pace picks up

They're all racing downwind now, and the spinnakers are up, using that extra sail area to really gain as much speed as possible. GB's Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre are still going well in second, behind the Swiss boat who lead, but Switzerland are not in medal contention so they're not a threat to GB.

06:44 AM

France down in sixth

The French boat make the first big turn way back in sixth spot, with GB enjoying a good start, up in second. If France stay in that sort of position in this field, the gold medal is definitely going to Great Britain.

06:39 AM

Good start for GB

Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre look like they're in second spot in these early stages, just behind Germany, as the field all spread out across the water, tacking upwind. GB appear to be purposefully following a similar line to their gold-medal rivals France, who are just behind them. If France don't finish seven places ahead of the British boat today, the gold medal will be Team GB's.

06:36 AM

The race begins

Here they go. They all make a clean start. These 10 boats will race upwind first, for around 750 yards, then come straight back to the start line and do that same lap twice, before one final angled turn towards the finish, so there are four buoys to navigate overall.

06:33 AM

Can GB's flag-bearer Mills make history?

At the opening ceremony, Hannah Mills was carrying the flag for Team GB together with Moe Sbihi. Today she hopes to defend her Olympic title from Rio. She also won silver in this 470 class at the London 2012 Games. Can she become GB's most successful female Olympic sailor of all time? We're about to find out.

06:31 AM

How it stands

Enjoying a dominant 14-point lead overall ahead of this medal race, Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre will clinch the gold medal as long as they finish inside the top eight boats today, if second-placed France were to win the race. Essentially they need to finish within seven places of France, who are in the silver-medal position, but the French pair are likely to be more focused on staying clear of third-placed Poland - you would think - as they're only four points ahead of them.

To remind you, the team with the lowest points total wins. In medal races, points are doubled, so the winning boat adds two points to their overall score, the runners-up add four points, and so on...

06:25 AM

Coming up: Women's 470 medal race

Now the women's 470 boats are heading out onto the water, on what looks like a beautiful, warm afternoon at the Enoshima Yacht Harbour. This will be the final race of this Olympic regatta, which has been held in the waters of Sagami Bay, just south of Yokohama. There's a gentle, eight-knot breeze. All eyes are on GB's Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre, who lead the standings ahead of this decisive medal race.

06:17 AM

Fifth for GB

06:11 AM

Tears as Sweden celebrate silver

These are lovely scenes. Anton Dahlberg, a veteran at 36, is overjoyed as he celebrates silver for Sweden at what is his fourth Olympic Games; finally it's his first medal. He picked up a gold at the world championships earlier this year, but an Olympic medal has long eluded him.

06:08 AM

GB cross the line in eighth; fifth overall

It wasn't to be today for Luke Patience and Chris Grube. They remain fifth overall in the final standings, after coming over the line in eighth spot today, just ahead of the Greek boat on the water.

06:06 AM

Sweden take silver, Spain hold on for bronze

After the champions Australia cross the line first, well clear of the rest of the field, it's Anton Dahlberg and Fredrik Bergstrom of Sweden who finish second in this race to clinch the silver medal overall and they look thrilled. New Zealand - who started the day in fourth - cross the line just behind the Swedes in third but that's not enough for the Kiwis to overhaul Spain, who come across the line in fifth, just behind the USA, and that's enough for Spain to clinch bronze. Jordi Xammar and Nicolas Rodriguez Garcia-Paz celebrate their medal with wide smiles. They were in third sport before this race began and they've done enough to hold on. They roar 'Vamos' and share a hug, before jumping in for a swim.

06:01 AM

Up towards the finish

It's becoming a victory lap for Australia, who didn't need to win this race as they were already assured of gold, but they're cruising well clear of Sweden to win this medal race.

05:58 AM

GB down in 9th

Battling with the Japanese and Greek boats as they rounded the windward mark, GB made the turn in ninth spot and there's now a sizeable distance on the water between the four leading boats and those behind. GB have a monumental task on their hands if they're going to somehow claw their way back into the battle for the medals, and they'd need Spain to drop off the pace at the same time. The pace picks up again for everyone as they head downwind.

05:55 AM

Close up top

As they approach the third mark, it's frantically tight between the four leading boats of Australia, Sweden, Spain and New Zealand, but GB aren't in the frame at the moment. Those four boats appear to be the ones who'll share the medals, with GB slipping further back to eighth place. Right now, everybody is trailing in the wake of the Aussies.

05:48 AM

Australia and Sweden out in front

Australia are already guaranteed gold - Getty
Australia are already guaranteed gold - Getty

Already assured of the gold medal, the Australians are showing their class again and they lead this medal race, around 10m clear of Sweden, who are in silver-medal position. Spain are up there too, which is bad news for GB's slim medal hopes as things stand. All the boats are racing downwind at the moment, coming up to the end of the first lap.

05:44 AM

Preparing to turn

They're all approaching the windward mark now, preparing for the first key turn, but GB have to give way to a group of six boats coming in from their left-hand-side. Sweden and Australia now lead the way, as they all turn downwind now for the first time in this race. GB make the turn in... seventh, battling it out with the Japanese boat.

05:39 AM

GB back in 10th

Luke Patience and Chris Grube are at the back of the field in these early stages, while the American and Spanish boats lead the way, with New Zealand (who began the race in fourth spot overall) also looking strong. The Kiwis opted to take a different line to almost everyone else and have now tacked back towards the other boats.

05:35 AM

Let's race

The men's medal race begins, heading upwind first. Spain, occupying the bronze medal spot overall, look to have made a a strong start.

05:33 AM

How the scoring works

As the 10 boats in this medal race all jostle for position before the start, let's run through the scoring system.

You clock up double points in the medal race, so the winners will add two points to their overall total, the runners-up will score four, and so on, until the boat in last (10th) place who will receive 20 points.

05:30 AM

Silver and bronze on the line

As the sailors now start to head out onto the water, the Australians' lead is unsurmountable - they're guaranteed the gold. But the silver and bronze medals are very much up for grabs. GB, in fifth, have plenty of ground to make up, but Luke Patience and Chris Grube have a chance, in a competitive field. They'll start racing in just a few moments.

05:26 AM

The forecast

There are fairly light winds again at the Enoshima Yacht Harbour, which is roughly 75 minutes' drive south of Tokyo. It's a pretty scorching 31 degrees centigrade - approaching 2.30pm in the afternoon local time - and that temperature could rise higher as the afternoon goes on. There is around a eight knot wind, gently blowing in towards the shore.

05:20 AM

How it stands in the men's 470

Before the men's medal race, which gets under way in just over 15 minutes' time, Australia lead the standings with 21 points, after winning three of the 10 races building up to this decider.

Sitting 20 points behind them in second are the Swedish pair, followed by Spain in third with 45 points - that's who GB will need to overhaul if they are to claim a medal.

Luke Patience and Chris Grube have accumulated 54 points, nine more than Spain, while New Zealand's Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Wilcox are occupying fourth place, three points better off than GB and just 6 off the bronze-medal pace of the Spanish.

05:11 AM

Coming up this morning

We're set for a terrific couple of races to bring this Olympic regatta to an end.

05:01 AM

Another huge day for GB sailing

After a quite glorious Tuesday for Team GB's sailing team saw them claim two golds and one silver, today there is hope for further success on the waters of Enoshima Yacht Harbour as the men's and women's 470 classes conclude with their medal races.

Hannah Mills could become the most successful women in British Olympic sailing history, as she goes for gold alongside Eilidh McIntyre. The GB duo currently lead the way in the women's 470 standings and are guaranteed at least a medal.

Their medal race gets under way at 7.33am BST, but before then the men's medal race goes off at 6.33am and GB are in contention again. Luke Patience and Chris Grube are just nine points off third spot, sitting in fifth place, before the start of today's decider.

And if the GB sailors needed any inspiration, it came yesterday as the wider British team produced a memorable and thrilling day out on the water that gave viewers back the UK great entertainment.

Giles Scott defended his Olympic title from Rio 2016 in the outgoing Finn class, but not before Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell had narrowly pipped New Zealand to the gold medal in the men's 49er. Fletcher and Bithell squeezed past Germany in the final seconds of their medal race to claim a dramatic victory.

There was further cause for celebration in the mixed Nacra 17 class as GB's John Gimson and Anna Burnet held onto their silver-medal position.

Those results gave GB a total of four sailing medals in these Games so far, adding to windsurfer Emma Wilson's bronze, and a fifth is already guaranteed from Mills and McIntyre today - the only question is, what colour will it be? Their nearest rivals are the French boat of Camille Lecointre and Aloise Retornaz, with the Polish boat lying in third. Meanwhile, the Australians lead the way in the men's 470.

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