Hannah Mills strikes gold to become Team GB’s most successful female sailor

·5 min read

Team GB’s Hannah Mills has become the most successful female Olympic sailor in history after claiming gold with Eilidh McIntyre in Tokyo, while 13-year-old Sky Brown has become the country’s youngest medallist in the women’s skateboarding.

Mills took gold with McIntyre in the women’s 470 class and Brown claimed the bronze medal in the women’s skateboard park event at the Ariake Urban Arena.

Also, Ben Whittaker won Olympic silver after losing to Cuban Arlen Lopez in the men’s light-heavyweight boxing gold, while Frazer Clarke took bronze in the men’s super-heavyweight division after losing his semi-final against Uzbekistan’s Bakhodir Jalolov.

Mills, who carried the British flag at the opening ceremony with rower Mohamed Sbihi, won silver in London and gold in Rio with Saskia Clark in the same boat.

Mills and McIntyre have 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’s fiance Jonny Forer, from Old Portsmouth, told the PA news agency: “It’s absolutely amazing, it’s such a moment for her, it’s always been her dream. I’m so proud of her.

Hannah Mills
Hannah Mills carried the flag with Mohamed Sbihi during the opening ceremony (PA)

“It was spoilt a bit at the end by the French and their protest by Hannah and Eilidh were vindicated.”

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.

Mills joined forces with 27-year-old 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.

It is a debut Olympic medal for McIntyre, who follows in the footsteps of her father Mike – the gold medallist in the Star class at the Seoul Games in 1988.

Her parents, who watched her win from Hayling Island Sailing Club in Hampshire, spoke of their pride at their daughter’s achievement.

Mr McIntyre told PA: “I am incredibly proud, extremely happy and very, very relieved.”

Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre
Hannah Mills, right, and Eilidh McIntyre joined forces after the Rio Olympics (PA)

Her mother Caroline said: “It means everything to her, it has been her life and her world since she was 11.

“You could see it in her reaction when she found out about the protest, she was distraught beyond words.”

Mrs McIntyre said she cannot wait to welcome her daughter back home and added: “I shall probably be in the queue for a massive hug and to say how proud I am of her, super proud of her, for both of the girls, it’s an amazing achievement.”

Mr McIntyre explained that his own gold medal had helped motivate his daughter.

He said: “It sits in a little golden cabinet outside her bedroom so as she was growing up, every time she went out she would go past it.

“She always said it gave her motivation, also the fact it was in the family made it seem normal and achievable.”

There was disappointment, though, for 2012 silver medallist Luke Patience and Chris Grube in the men’s 470.

They were sitting second after eight races but dropped to fifth ahead of the medal race and that was where they finished after crossing the line in seventh.

Sky Brown
Skateboarder Sky Brown took gold aged just 13 (Adam Davy/PA)

In a remarkable finish in the skateboarding, Brown kick flipped her way into the history books by posting a score of 56.47 in her third and final attempt to come in behind Sakura Yosozumi and her 12-year-old Japanese counterpart Kokona Hiraki.

Yosozumi, 19, topped the podium with a score of 60.09, while Hiraki’s 59.04 proved enough for her to claim silver – eclipsing Brown to become the youngest Olympic medallist in 85 years.

Brown’s achievement is all the more stunning considering the fractured skull and broken bones she suffered during a horrific fall in training last year.

She said: “I’m so stoked. I can’t believe it, it’s unbelievable. I’m so happy to be on the podium with these guys, it’s insane.

“The medal feels unreal, it’s like a dream. I can’t wait to show the medal to my family and friends.

“Sakura [Yosozumi] said, ‘you’ve got it Sky, I know you’re going to make it’, and that really made me feel better.

“I was a little nervous but I’m happy to be here and honestly, I just wanted to land my trick. I didn’t really care what place I got, I wanted to land my trick.

“I really hope I inspire some girls. I feel like people think I’m too young and I can’t do it but if you believe in yourself, you can do anything. I believed in myself and I’m here.”

Sky Brown
Sky Brown said she hoped to inspire other young girls (Adam Davy/PA)

Born in Miyazaki, Japan, to a Japanese mother and British father, Brown competed at the US Open in 2016 at the age of eight, and first elected to compete for Great Britain in 2018.

She arrived with plenty of profile, having won the US version of Dancing With The Stars: Juniors in 2018, and expressed her ambition to achieve the almost unprecedented feat of competing in two sports – skateboarding and surfing – at the Games, something from which she was subsequently dissuaded.

In 2019, Brown finished third at the World Skateboarding Championship, and the following year she effectively secured her Olympic qualification by picking up a bronze medal at the Park World Championships in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Last month, she warmed up for the Games by winning gold in the prestigious X Games, although neither of her key Olympic challengers, Misugu Okamoto and Hiraki, were present.

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