Tokyo 2020: Double medal success for Hannah Mills in Olympic warm-up

Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre
Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre won the Women's 470 world title in Japan earlier this month

Winning World Championship gold, an Olympic Test silver medal and more than a month spent sailing the Tokyo 2020 waters where they hope to win next year.

It has proved a productive month in Japan for defending Olympic champion Hannah Mills and her 470 crew partner Eilidh McIntyre in their preparations for Tokyo 2020 gold.

The Great Britain pair followed up their World Championship triumph with a second place in the Olympic dress rehearsal behind French pair Aloise Retornaz and Camille Lecointre.

Both regattas were staged on the course they will return to in fewer than 12 months, when they will chase the ultimate prize.

"It has been fantastic to get so many races here on the waters where we will be competing next year for an Olympic gold medal," said Mills.

"We feel lucky to get so much time out here.

"Eilidh and I were desperate to win a gold medal at the World Championships after winning silver and bronze at the last two.

"We have been very close both times so we wanted it this time, especially as the Olympics will be held here at the same time next year. That was so special."

The pair have taken advantage of the limited opportunity compared with the preparation time Mills had with Saskia Clark before their silver medal at London 2012 and gold in Rio four years later.

"We spent a lot of time training in London and Rio at the venue, but in Japan there is only a small window where the conditions are as they would be at the Olympics," explained Mills.

"That is a six to eight week period over the summer and then the rest of the year is quite different."

Polluted waters and sewage proved pre-Games issues in the Brazil build-up four years ago, while Mills and Clark were also mugged in Rio.

There have been no such concerns on the idyllic Japan destination or the Enoshima Yacht Harbour course.

"It is an amazing place to sail," said Mills.

"We are in a bay that faces the Pacific Ocean. There is nothing between us and Hawaii and then the American coastline.

Eilidh McIntyre, left, and Hannah Mills race at the 2019 470 World Championships
Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre won four of the 12 races at the 2019 470 World Championship regatta

"They get some phenomenal waves coming in, which is amazing for us and puts us through our paces.

"We have realised it is not a simple place to sail and there are a lot of quirks we need to figure out as fast as possible."

Mills and McIntyre's partnership has blossomed since they started sailing together regularly early in 2018.

The pair hope their Olympic place in Tokyo will be confirmed by Team GB in the next month before they concentrate on the quest for gold.

"We are in a good place," said Mills.

"It is a relatively new partnership - we have been sailing full-time for a year-and-a-half now.

"What is exciting for us is we feel as if we have so many things to improve on. We are confident but there is a heap of work to do."

Mills is glad she decided not to retire after winning gold in Rio.

The 31-year-old hopes to become the most successful female sailor in Olympic history next year by adding a second gold to her collection alongside the London silver.

"I am glad I stayed on for another Games," said Mills.

"It was hard after Saskia retired and it would have been easy to have finished on a high after winning gold.

"But there is nothing like the Olympics. It is the most incredible thing to be involved with and the buzz is not something that can be replicated by anything else."

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