Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre on their stunning gold

Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre talk to Andy Rice about winning the gold which sealed Mills’ position as the greatest female Olympic sailor of all time

The Medal Race should have been straightforward for Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre. Having sailed a really solid qualifying series in the 470 Women’s event, the British duo carried a 14-point advantage into the Medal Race ahead of their closest rivals, the French.

Five years earlier Hannah Mills, who was then sailing with Saskia Clark, won the regatta with a race to spare. Rules say you still have to go around the race course and finish. Pretty straightforward, you’d think, but Mills and Clark were paranoid about any possible thing that might go wrong – gear failure, falling foul of another boat, being capsized on, and so on.

Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark celebrating their gold in Rio 2016. Sailing Energy / World Sailing

Of course Mills and Clark won that gold medal in Rio, and here in a similar position was Hannah Mills again – this time with Games first-timer Eilidh McIntyre. There was the same concern about sailing a clean race, whilst also having to keep an eye on the French.

Down the final run before the last turning mark to the finish, GBR was in second place with the French behind them. All going to plan. But it was tight at the mark and the Brits took a wide berth at the mark, not wanting to do anything that could put the gold at risk.

In being so conservative the British dropped from second to fifth, just behind the Polish who had just passed them at the mark, still just ahead of the French. The gold was assured, while the last-mark reshuffle moved the silver from France to Poland.

Mills and McIntyre en-route to gold in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Photo: Sailing Energy / World Sailing

To France, the reshuffle looked suspicious. They protested the British, alleging team racing tactics with the Polish. Within a few seconds of finishing, relief and elation at winning the gold quickly turned to horror and fear that the medal might be snatched away from the British in the most controversial of circumstances. Social media lit up with light-hearted memes implying the Brits and Polish were very cosy together, as well as some nastier stuff on Twitter.

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