Hanson takes footballing inspiration ahead of Tokyo bow

Hanson takes footballing inspiration ahead of Tokyo bow

17 June 2020 / 12:16
Elliot Hanson hopes to make the Tokyo water his very own Theatre of Dreams.

An avid Manchester United fan away from his Laser dinghy, Hanson has put the hard yards in on the Wattbike during lockdown before finally returning to the water two weeks ago.

And the ambitious 26-year-old, who already knows what it takes to succeed at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic venue of Enoshima, wants to start picking up more wins like Marcus Rashford bangs in goals at Old Trafford.

“The main result for me over the past few years was the 2018 World Cup Series event in Enoshima,” he said.

“That was the cherry on the cake of that season – coming back from ankle surgery, and then doing it at an Olympic venue on a World stage was the first time I’d ever done that, which was great.


“It didn’t take me long to realise that the postponement of the Games is actually a huge opportunity for me to turn my chances of medals into a lot more of an assertive opportunity.

“A lot of that at the moment is coming from working on my technique of sailing the boat consistently fast across all the wind ranges.

“In sport, out of sport, it’s been a very strange time for all of us. It’s going to be odd when football comes back, but I am optimistic about United’s prospects!

“I thought we were playing well before lockdown – we’ve got a few things to do in order to get into that Premier League top four, but I think Paul Pogba being back can only help us.

“Marcus Rashford recovering from his back injury will be able to help us too, so I’m confident about how we’re going to do.”

Hanson had secured his spot for Tokyo when the 2020 Games were postponed, having followed up the memorable win in Enoshima with a fifth-placed finish at the World Championships in Melbourne.

The Laser sailor also won gold in his maiden international competition back after injury at the Medemblik Regatta in 2018, after previously winning the Youth America’s Cup the year before under the watchful eye of team principal and skipper Sir Ben Ainslie.

Ainslie’s five medals – four of them gold – in the Laser and Finn classes between 1996 and 2012 mark him out as the most decorated Olympic sailor of all time and Hanson knows he can learn valuable lessons from the 43-year-old, who was also born in his hometown of Macclesfield.

“I’ve done a lot of talking with past British Olympians from the sailing team,” he added.

“I’ve been on the phone to Iain Percy, while I’ve also reached out to Hugh Styles and Sir Ben Ainslie, who I know from being in his Youth America’s Cup team back in 2017.

“I know Ben reasonably well and we’re on good terms – what’s nice is he’s told me his phone is always open, and it’s great to have those guys who are still so passionate about Olympic sailing.

“I’ve really drawn down and made use of all these resources that I knew the team had, and made them relevant to myself – I saw a great deal of value in that.

“I think quite often, these legends of the sport finish their last Games and disappear, and there’s quite often a feeling among the young sailers then that you lose that experience.

“I made a real point of trying to chase after some of that experience from Olympic legends – it’s been really useful being able to sort of pick their brains about their advice going forward.”

Hanson thinks deeply about his sport and is not the sort to be overawed by the occasion, relishing the prospect of an Olympic debut after years of battling injury and adversity.

The Cheshire sailor narrowly missed out on a medal at the 2018 World Championships in Aarhus, just months after struggling with an ankle injury where he endured many long hours with his leg up on the sofa while watching his teammates thrive.

Hanson also languished in 22nd in a Ready Steady Tokyo test event last year, so has endured something of a bumpy ride on the way to eventually securing his seat on the plane to Japan.

But he knows the bad times make the taste of glory even sweeter, and reckons he’ll be in optimum condition the moment his date with Olympic destiny comes calling.

“When I’ve been injured, I’ve been driven by the fact that when I haven’t been sailing, all my fellow sailors and counterparts were sailing really well,” he said.

“I found it hard, but the first event back I’d never felt that level of determination about proving a point to myself that I was still in the running.

“The final few months ahead of the Games will just be sharpening up and feeling fresh so I can hit the ground running, so I’m really looking forward to it.

“For me, if I can get my processes right between now and then the racing itself will just be a confirmation for me that it’s gone well.

“Setting that goal of that very top step on the podium makes you do all the things you need to do on a daily basis, and as long as I can execute the performance I know I want to, then the podium part takes care of itself.”