Tokyo heroics behind Olympic champion McIntyre as Paris pursuit begins

·4-min read
16th March 2022. Palma. Spain. Pictures of the British Sailing Team mixed class. (Lloyd Images)

By James Reid, Sportsbeat

Reigning Olympic champion Eilidh McIntyre knows she must leave Tokyo in the past as she begins her bid for another gold at Paris 2024.

The Hayling Island sailing star stormed to victory in the 470 class with Hannah Mills in Tokyo, but now teams up with Martin Wrigley after deciding to embark on another Olympic campaign.

The 28-year-old was not sure whether she could face starting another Olympic assault, but could not resist the possibility of another gold medal – but knows she cannot live off past victories.

“I need to let go of that gold medal and that experience, or it’s going to strangle me,” said McIntyre, whose father Michael claimed gold in the Star class at Seoul 1988.

“It’s going to strangle this next performance if I don’t let go of it and drop it.

“I’m really beginning to focus on who I need to be next, what’s the athlete I need to be next, rather than who I was in the past, because that’s not who I need to be this time around.

“It’s about moving forward, being a different type of athlete, pushing forward to create something new.”

McIntyre and Mills clinched gold by a comfortable 16 points, with the duo named World Sailor of the Year for 2021 as Mills became the world’s most successful female Olympic sailor.

Yet McIntyre freely admits that she felt conflicted about going again for Paris after reaching the summit in Tokyo.

“It’s been really tough because I felt ridiculously content in my performance at the [2020 Olympic] Games,” admitted McIntyre, speaking ahead of the upcoming World and European Championships.

“The thought of going back and putting myself all on the line again, that’s been hard to contend with.

“But for whatever reason, despite feeling overwhelmingly content I’ve just had this feeling that I needed to try again.

“Whilst I have this opportunity, I need to go again and see what we can do but it comes with a lot of anxiety and that fear of putting yourself on the line again and living up to what you’ve done in the past.

“I definitely feel a bit daunted by the prospect, but in the same breath it’s exciting and a massive challenge. We’ve got a lot on, and if we pull it off it will be bloody cool.”

Despite her initial reservations, McIntyre is now fully committed to another tilt at Olympic glory in the 470 class, which has switched to mixed gender for 2024.

The Hayling Island athlete is hoping that she is able to use her previous experiences to her advantage as she approaches Paris with new partner Wrigley, but is fully aware of the task that awaits them.

“There’s so much power in having won a gold medal and knowing what it takes,” added McIntyre.

“But there’s also don’t have rose-tinted glasses about anything - you know how far off you are from being where you need to be, and that can also be really daunting.

“I love getting to know people and figuring out how to work together and creating a new dynamic.

“It’s a process, it takes years and takes a lot of time and a lot of work but that’s part of the fun of our sport – your performance is so intertwined.

“To win a medal at the Europeans and the Worlds, that’s going to be really tough - we’re going to go into them and we’re going to be close to the medals.

“I want to see that we are these most of the time, that we have the building blocks to push forward and next year we need to be winning medals.”

The British Sailing Team are the most successful national Olympic sailing team of all time and will proudly fly the flag for Great Britain at Paris 2024