Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Hayling Island sailor Eilidh McIntyre returns with a gold medal - and a mission to bring water sports to Southsea seafront
OLYMPIC gold medalist Eilidh McIntyre has called for a water sports facility to be built on Southsea seafront to inspire the next generation of sea-loving athletes, after making her victorious return home from Tokyo.
The Hayling Island resident and her team mate Hannah Mills dominated the regatta in Japan, comfortably winning a gold in the women’s 470 class sailing event.
Now Eilidh has returned to enjoy celebrating with her jubiliant loved-ones – and to begin a personal mission she is ‘desperate’ to fulfill.
The 27-year old said: ‘I’m desperate to set up a sailing facility on the seafront in Portsmouth. There’s some amazing facilities in Portsmouth (like) the Andrew Simpson Foundation in Eastney, but I see thousands of beach all the time, and I think it would be great for them to have better access to getting on the water.
‘We have the most incredible seafront – why don’t we do more water sports? Somewhere where you could hire equipment for sailing, paddle boarding, all sorts of different things.’
Sailing charity The Andrew Simpson Foundation runs a range of water sports activities from a centre in Eastney at the edge of Langstone Harbour.
Earlier this year, sailing club commodores from across the area wrote to Southern Water, demanding action on pollution created by stormwater dumped in the harbour.
Often sailing in the harbour, Eilidh said she shared the frustrations over local waterway pollution – and hopes water sports can connect young people with the damage being done to the environment.
She said: ‘That’s why it’s so important to get kids into water sports, so they can appreciate what is happening.
‘You see crisp packets, and wrappers, and all sorts in the water. When it’s floating in the sea around with you, you think, ‘we cannot accept this’.’
Now Eilidh wants to work with the sailing centre in Eastney, local politicians, schools, and businesses to bring water sports to Southsea seafront.
She added: ‘I’ve been saying it for a long time and it’s one of the reasons why I wanted to win gold..maybe I could help get people on to the water and get the same joy out of it I do.
‘I’m desperate to make this a thing.’
It comes as other local Olympians – including Portchester BMXer Declan Brooks, who won bronze at this year’s games – have called for the residents to rally behind efforts to improve the city’s sports offerings.
Eilidh said: ‘I don’t think it should be about one sport. I’m passionate about water sports but other people will be more suited to a different sport. It’s cool that Portsmouth has ambassadors who have competed in the Olympics.’
Eilidh’s golden victory sees her follow in her father’s wake – after Michael McIntyre won gold in the Star class sailing event at the Seoul 1988 Olympics.
The proud father said: ‘We’ve always tried to be really supportive without pushing – that’s the role of the parents.
‘You see this with all the Olympic athletes – the real drive comes from them.’
Eilidh is hoping she soon will be able to be out and about across the city inspiring its youngsters to take to the water.
She said: ‘I have no idea what’s next. I would love to do the rounds in Portsmouth, visiting lots of schools.’
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron