by Olly Allen
With the exception of 1904, sailing has been present at every single edition of the modern Olympic Games, and Great Britain has won more gold medals (28) than any other nation in the sport. One of those medallists is Cardiff-born Hannah Mills, who topped the podium at Rio 2016 after picking up silver in London 2012. A medal in Tokyo this summer would mean she becomes the most successful female Olympic sailor of all time.
Mills started sailing at the age of eight after trying the sport whilst on holiday in Cornwall, and in 2002, was voted UK Young Sailor of the Year and BBC Wales Young Sports Personality of the Year. By the time she won a gold medal at the 2008 Junior World Sailing Championships, her talent was clear.
In 2011, she paired up with Saskia Clark for the first time, a partnership that would go on to achieve huge success in the Women’s 470 category over the next few years. Gold at the World Championships in 2012 gave them confidence going into the London Olympics that summer, and the pair were agonisingly close to topping the podium in Weymouth.
Mills and Clark shared the lead with the New Zealand boat going into the medal race, and despite a good start they were undone by a shift in the wind, finishing next to last, leaving them with silver.
This only inspired them four years later though, and nothing could deter them in Rio. The pair held a 20-point lead going into the medal race and finished eighth to claim the gold medal.
Mills considered retirement after her success in Brazil, especially as Clark confirmed that she was calling it a day. However her love of sailing proved too strong, and Mills found a new partner in Eilidh McIntyre.
After winning silver and bronze in the Women’s 470 at the 2017 and 2018 World Championships respectively, the pair finally got their hands on gold last year before finishing as runners-up in the Olympic test event. In October they were announced as part of the Team GB squad for Tokyo as sailing became the first sport to select its athletes for the games. Mills now has the chance to make history this summer.
Speaking to The Guardian following the announcement, Mills said:
“To get selected for the Olympic team is a huge achievement and to do it again, with a new partner, is just so special. Eilidh and I have been sailing together for coming up to two years now and we’ve had to work on a lot of stuff.
“As I have got older, I’ve really tried to enjoy the journey of the Olympic Games. That’s something Eilidh and I have put a lot of effort into, making sure that we enjoy the whole process.
“Obviously we go there to win and will do everything in our power to win but there’s no guarantees at the Games. If we can deliver our best performance and that’s not good enough because of whatever factors we still have to be proud of everything we put into it, and know that we’ve not left anything in the bank.”