Tokyo 2020: The long journey

Published on January 24th, 2020

When the British Sailing Team does their lap during the Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremonies, the squad will include the well-traveled John Gimson and his crew Anna Burnet in the Mixed Multihull event. For anybody dreaming of going to the Olympics, the 36-year-old Gimson has a story to tell.

His appointment comes after 15 years of campaigning Olympic classes in the UK alongside a host of professional sailing ventures to fund his dream. His career has seen him race everything from 470 dinghies to Tornado catamarans, as well as having experience with the Artemis Racing team in 34th and 35th Americas Cups.

He was a tuning partner for Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb, and Pippa Wilson during their gold medal-winning Beijing 2008 cycle in the Yngling, while in the run-up to London 2012 he was a training partner to silver medalists Iain Percy and the late Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson in the Star class.

After moving into the Nacra 17 for a tilt at Rio 2016, Gimson formed a successful partnership with Wilson on the helm but she chose to retire halfway through the cycle, and with new crew Hannah Diamond narrowly missed out on selection to Ben Saxton and Nicola Groves, who finished 9th in Rio.

“I’m elated and relieved – it’s been a big fight to get to this point,” he said. “When [team manager] Mark Robinson called to tell me the news of our selection he made a grown man cry, because it’s been such a long journey for me. I’ve been campaigning to get to the Olympics since 2005 so to finally get the nod is incredibly emotional.

“With this campaign now I’ve put everything that I’ve learned over the last 15 years together to build a solid campaign alongside Anna, who’s by far the best team mate I’ve ever had.

“It’s been a long journey but I’ve always had an inner belief that if I could put everything together and also get a bit of a break I could go to the Games. Ever since I was a kid I’ve dreamed of going to the Olympics and I wasn’t prepared to let that go until I felt I’d fully attacked it for a whole cycle. This is the first real opportunity I’ve had in the right boat, being the right size and sailing with the right person.

“It’s amazing to finally put an end to the trials process and focus our attentions fully on Tokyo 2020. We’re going to the Olympics to win a medal for sure.”

Britain has a rich history of excellence in Olympic competition, having won 58 medals – including 28 golds – since sailing made its debut at Paris 1900. Team GB currently tops the Olympic sailing medal table with golds, and sits only two medals behind USA in the total count.


TOKYO 2020 Sailing Program
Men’s One Person Dinghy – Laser
Women’s One Person Dinghy – Laser Radial
Men’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Women’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Men’s Skiff – 49er
Women’s Skiff – 49erFx
Men’s One Person Dinghy Heavy – Finn
Men’s Windsurfing – RS:X
Women’s Windsurfing – RS:X
Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17

Olympic schedule: July 24 – Aug 9
Sailing schedule: July 26 – Aug 6
Details: https://tokyo2020.org/en/games/schedule/olympic/

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