Big interview: Hayling Island sailor Eilidh McIntyre on her Olympic dream being put on hold for 12 months

For Eilidh McIntyre, this was meant to be the year she got the chance to make Team GB Olympic history.

Wednesday, 1st April 2020, 11:38 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st April 2020, 11:44 am
Eilidh McIntyre, left, and Hannah Mills celebrate after winning the 470 World Championships last August. Pic: Junichi Hirai.

Instead, 2020 is fast becoming one of the 'weirdest' of her life.

The Hayling Island sailor was due to be partnering Hannah Mills in the 470 Class at the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer.

However, that has been put on hold in the wake of the decision to postpone the event until 2021 following the global coronavirus pandemic.

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In a unique side story, Eilidh was aiming to emulate father Mike - a winner in the Star Class at Seoul in 1988 - and add another Olympic gold medal to the family collection.

In doing so, the pair would have become the first parent/child combination to claim gold medals for Team GB in Games history.

But now McIntyre is having to readjust her training programme and embark on a five-year training cycle before finally making her Olympics bow.

It has been a bit of a weird time to be honest,' she said of the unique situation - the Tokyo spectacular are the first Games ever to be postponed in peacetime.

‘I feel a lot better about the situation since it got announced that it is going to happen and we’ve got the date for the next Games, that makes it easier to get my head around.

‘It was 100 per cent (the right decision).

‘They could have postponed until later in the year and you still don’t know if this crisis is going to be over.

'You train to peak at different times of the year, you train to peak at different times in a four-year cycle.

‘But all of a sudden the four-year cycle has become five years.

‘It is a big deal in your training and a big deal mentally, energy level-wise and physicality-wise.

'You’re not going to give your body the rest it was expecting at the end of this four-year period.

‘That was the hope and still the dream to win a gold medal and have two in the family.

‘My whole family were meant to be flying out, my mum, dad, brother and sister and boyfriend.

‘Goodness knows how my mum and dad were going to be able to watch, but they were coming.'

The former Mayville High School student is currently adjusting to life on lockdown - just like everyone else in the UK at the moment.

McIntyre and sailing partner Mills - a gold medallist in Rio four years ago in the 470 category - were preparing for the World Championships in Palma, Spain, when the country declared a state of emergency in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The pair had to return home immediately, but McIntyre said it gave them both a chance to prepare for what was to come in the UK.

‘It was a bizarre scenario because four days before our World Championships were about to start we hadn’t even contemplated that it could be cancelled,' she added.

‘Then a state of emergency was declared, our World Championships was cancelled and we had to leave the country as quick as we could.

‘We came home and the UK hadn't reached that state yet.

‘For us, we were thinking we were going to be in quarantine in a few weeks’ time so we started to get gym kit ready.

'When this first happened, the British Sailing team looked at what opportunities could be taken.

‘When we found out we got sent home from our regattas and now we’re doing what the government have said, we’re on lockdown and everyone is at home.

‘For us, it’s how we can train from home.

‘We split the team gym up so everyone has gym kit at home who needs it.

‘We’ve all got mini gyms set up in our dining rooms ready to train everyday.

‘I’ve been training more than I probably would usually!

‘In doing exactly what we’re being told to do, which is staying at home, there’s a huge opportunity to be the fittest I’ve ever been.'

It remains to be seen how much preparation McIntyre and Mills can put in before the rescheduled Olympics.

However, the Games first-timer has left no stone unturned in her preparations for Tokyo.

McIntyre has trained and competed in events at the Olympic venue for the past four years.

And she believes the team around her could not be better as her and partner Mills reassess before battling for gold next year.

Although their place at the Games, along with others who qualified, are still to be confirmed following the rescheduling.

‘I’m so fortunate to be surrounded by the people I am,’ McIntyre added.

‘In our team and our dynamics our coach now, Joe Glanfield, he’s a double Olympic silver medallist.

‘He coached Hannah at both London and Rio.

‘I’m super fortunate in that way, if they say we should do something and that’s the right thing to do, I have full faith in the way they think we should programme.

‘I really trust their method and trust their belief.

‘The Olympics tends to wait for no man or woman but this time it’s waiting.

‘It can be hard to get your head around.

‘But something Hannah and I are particularly strong at is changing to adapt to situations and to our needs.

‘In a way that’s prepared us for this situation by being flexible and open-minded to changing this.

‘This whole campaign has been a long wait.

‘Every summer we’ve almost been like ‘we could go now’.

‘You always say in Olympic sport that time is the enemy and now we’ve got another 365 days.

‘It will be a Games to be remembered, hopefully, on the back of this situation.'

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