It is better to be a champion than not
Published on February 21st, 2023
Great Britain is the most successful Olympic sailing nation, and when a prominent member of the British Sailing Team does not continue to strive for the next Olympics, it is a news event. How to end one’s legacy is a difficult decision, and in this instance it was a decision between ending on top or not:
Tokyo 2020 champion Eilidh McIntyre has announced she is retiring from Olympic campaigning.
Last summer McIntyre fulfilled her lifelong dream of winning a gold medal at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, cemented her place in sport’s history books.
The 28-year-old topped the podium in the women’s 470 class alongside Hannah Mills, and in doing so matched the gold medal won by her father Mike 34 years prior at Seoul 1988.
The win also helped Mills to become the most successful female Olympic sailor of all time.
For the Paris 2024 cycle, the 470 class moved to mixed gender pairs, with McIntyre teaming up with Martin Wrigley, a training partner for Luke Patience and Chris Grube for Tokyo.
The pair finished inside the top ten at every event they’ve competed at, but McIntyre said she had come to the decision that she was not on course to win gold at Paris 2024.
“I woke up in 2023 feeling pretty sick,” said McIntyre. “I did a lot of soul searching and had a lot of conversations with people I really value, and I’ve come to the decision to step away from Olympic sailing.
“It’s not a decision I’ve taken lightly. I’ve loved the last 13 years doing this, and winning a gold medal at Tokyo was the absolute highlight of my career.
“But for me the Olympics is about fighting it out for the win, and I want to be at the Olympics to do that. I don’t believe that in the time-frame of this Olympic cycle, that it’s something I’m able to do, so I’m choosing to step away.”
McIntyre’s retirement brings to a close a stellar 13-year career with the British Sailing Team, having joined the ranks in 2010 as a talented 15-year-old.
A 470 sailor for her entire time with the British Sailing Team, McIntyre tasted early success came alongside Sophie Weguelin, the duo picking up medals at big regattas like the European Championships, Princess Sofia Regatta, and World Sailing’s World Cup Miami.
The pair pushed Mills and her then partner Saskia Clark hard during the selection trials for Rio 2016, just missing out on the one spot with Team GB. With Mills looking for a new crew after Rio, McIntyre plucked up the courage to phone her and suggest they teamed up. The rest is history.
McIntyre and Mills won their first outing together – the 2017 World Cup Final in Santander – before following it up with a silver at the 2017 World Championship. It was the start of a formidable partnership with numerous medals, including gold at the 2019 World Championship, and culminating in the ultimate prize at Tokyo 2020.
In the aftermath, McIntyre and Mills were named 2021 Rolex World Sailors of the Year. McIntyre was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2022 New Years Honours for services to sailing.
McIntyre now plans to explore opportunities in professional sailing, while also starting a property business alongside her sister.
Paris 2024 Olympic Sailing Program:
Men’s One Person Dinghy – ILCA 7
Women’s One Person Dinghy – ILCA 6
Mixed Two Person Dinghy – 470
Men’s Skiff – 49er
Women’s Skiff – 49erFx
Men’s Kiteboard – Formula Kite Class
Women’s Kiteboard – Formula Kite Class
Men’s Windsurfing – iQFoil
Women’s Windsurfing – iQFoil
Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17
Venue: Marseille, France
Dates: July 26-August 11