‘I’ve dreamt about this my entire life – it’s an amazing feeling’ – Hayling Islander Eilidh McIntyre on emulating her dad Mike’s Olympic sailing gold medal success
Hayling Islander Eilidh McIntyre spoke of the ‘amazing feeling’ after emulating her father Mike’s achievement of becoming an Olympic sailing champion.
Thirty three years after Mike won the Star class in Seoul, Eilidh and partner Hannah Mills claimed the women’s 470 class gold medal this morning.
McIntyre and Mills dominated the regatta at Enoshima, winning two races and only twice finishing outside the top four, and they went into the medal race with a 14-point lead.
That meant they only needed to finish in the top seven to clinch gold and they were never in any danger, crossing the line comfortably in fifth.
There was a delay for the result to be ratified after a protest from France but that was dismissed, with Mills and McIntyre confirmed in gold.
McIntyre, 27, said: ‘Fortunately nothing else [except gold] would have done for me and I think we’ve been so aligned on that for our entire campaign.
‘To be honest I just couldn’t believe it. I can’t believe that this has happened. I’ve dreamt about it my entire life with my dad [Mike) and it’s just such an amazing feeling.
‘To my dad, thank you for everything. Thank you for being my inspiration, for being at the end of the phone whenever I wanted to talk.
‘I want to thank my whole family and my poor mum (Caroline)… she’s had to live through the stress of this twice!’
Eilidh and Mike are the first Team GB father and daughter pair to both win an Olympic gold. Previously, Mark Phillips (gold, 1972) and Zara Tindall (silver, 2012) had been the closest.
The McIntyres are only the third father and daughter pairing to win gold in Olympic history.
Hungarian Márton Homonnai and Katalin Szőke were the first to achieve the feat - father Marton winning water polo gold in 1932 and 1936 and Katalin winning two swimming golds in 1956.
And Stanislav Pozdnyakov won four fencing golds for Russia between 1992-2000, with his daughter Sofia Pozdniakova winning two in the same sport in Tokyo.
Mills, meanwhile, is now the most successful female Olympic sailor in history - she won silver in London and gold in Rio with Saskia Clark in the same boat.
She joined forces with McIntyre when Clark retired following the Rio Olympics and the pair marked themselves out as the ones to beat by winning the world championships at Enoshima in 2019.
Mills, 33, from Cardiff, said: ‘It’s been one of the hardest weeks of my life. I’m sure for Eilidh as well, just every day, not being able to eat.
‘(There were) nerves like nothing else. For a long time as well. Once the Games were definitely happening, that’s when the nerves came. I just felt sick every single day – eating was a chore, sleeping was a chore.
‘I just wanted to win. To be successful, to make Eilidh proud and my team proud and everyone back home proud. You want to come to an Olympic Games and deliver – it’s a lot of pressure.
‘It felt like Christmas this morning. A really nervous Christmas. It’s a massive relief. Just so happy, we worked so hard for this. We put everything we are into this.’
Mills added: ‘Growing up, a lot of Olympians dreamed of being here one day and standing on top of the podium. And to do it twice with Saskia [Clark] before and Eilidh this time, I’ve had two incredible crews to sail with and I just feel incredibly lucky.
‘The team around us here have been phenomenal. Big shout out to The National Lottery and everyone who plays the lottery because without you guys, we wouldn’t be here either.
‘The support back home has been unreal so thank you everyone.’
Mills has welcomed the move to make the 470 a mixed boat for the Paris Games in 2024, and McIntyre is planning to compete again. This, though, is the end of the Olympic journey for the Welsh sailor.
Mills’ other passion is sustainability and reducing the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans, and she hopes to make that her new career.
She said: ‘It definitely could be my last ever race. I want to really pursue that avenue and help make the world what it needs to be.’
The victory continued a hugely successful two days for Britain’s sailors, with Mills and McIntyre making it three gold medals after success for Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell in the 49er and Giles Scott in the Finn on Tuesday.
It is the country’s second best Olympic tally after Beijing in 2008, when they won six medals, including four golds.