Pub dream to Olympic gold for Mills and Clark
Sailing

Pub dream to Olympic gold for Mills and Clark

19 August 2016 / 13:05

Never believe anything someone tells you in a pub after a few drinks - unless they are Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark.

Eight years after a drunken night out, when the seeds of their partnership were sown, Mills and Clark finally secured Olympic gold under the shadow of Rio’s Sugarloaf Mountain yesterday.

It had started as an evening of drowning sorrows, Clark thought her career was over after Sarah Ayton, one of the original ‘blondes in the boat’ from Beijing, had decided to quit the sport just over a year before London.

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She needed a boat and Mills needed a crew - and a partnership of necessity was born, which quickly developed into a firm and winning friendship.

It’s been an anxious wait to finally get their hands on the medal they craved, in the women’s 470 class.

With a near unassailable lead, all they had to do was stay out of trouble on the double points medal race, which had been delayed for 24 hours, and silver from London would be impressively upgraded.

“I was so nervous we’d break something and wouldn’t be able to finish,” said Mills. “We could have a lost a medal and we would have felt so stupid. 

“I’ve been paranoid and I’ve been checking every bit of the boat religiously. If our mast had snapped and the Kiwis had won, we’d have lost. It wasn’t the foregone conclusion everyone said it was.

“We didn’t want the same medal as London and nothing could beat this for me, winning gold with my best friend. It’s a once in a lifetime moment.”

Clark will now step back from sailing to take up a role with the Andrew Simpson Foundation, the charity formed to commemorate the life of the Beijing Olympic gold medallist, nicknamed Bart, who lost his life competing in the America’s Cup in 2013.

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“It’s pretty emotional to think that is my last race,” said Clark. “I might start crying but at the moment I can't stop smiling

“I start my new job in October and I can’t wait for the new challenge, with a charity that's pretty close to all of our hearts.

“I went to two Olympics with Bart and we sailed together since we were eight.”

That leaves Mills - only 28 - at a crossroads. Find a new partner for another Olympic campaign in Tokyo or a seek different challenge.

“I’m going to give it a couple of months, there’s no rush,” she said.

“I just want to enjoy this moment and not be thinking about what’s next. I’ll just have to see how I feel when all this settles down but right now I just want to celebrate with a few drinks and the team.”

It’s two decades since Mills nagged her mum to take her sailing in Cardiff - which is why she was among the first to congratulate her daughter on what was an emotional after on the water.

“Bless Mum, she’s got sunstroke waiting around for us to win this,” she joked.

“After we crossed the line I just really wanted to see her. She has made it out here, bless her, all the way to Rio and she's been there the whole time supporting me with my family back at home. 

“It's just such an amazing moment to share with everyone. You're out on the water doing it on your own and it feels like such a sense of relief.”

By James Toney, Sportsbeat, in Rio

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