Welsh sailor Hannah Mills says she is a step closer to achieving her dream of competing for gold in the London Olympics after pairing-up with Saskia Clark.
The 22-year-old World Junior champion was chosen by the more experienced Clark as her new helm ahead of the 2012 games after double gold-medallist Sarah Ayton decided not to defend her title in London next year.
“I was pretty excited to get the call from Saskia,” said Mills, from Dinas Powys.
“For me it was a great opportunity to sail with someone who’d sailed the 470 for a very long time and could sail the boat really well, which is definitely something I’ve been looking for.
“2012 was always on my horizon, even it if was maybe a bit of a long way away. Now sailing with Saskia it’s definitely that step closer – we’re both revved up and fully up for it and we’ll both do everything we can to make a possible become a probable.”
Clark explained she was determined to keep her 2012 dream alive after hearing about Ayton’s decision.
“As soon as Sarah told me of her decision I think I was even more determined to be there on the startline in 2012 and try and achieve what’s been a childhood dream,” Clark explained.
“There was no time to waste really, so I spent a lot of time talking to people whose opinions I respect, gathering all the bits of information I could, thinking about where my strengths and weakness lay and where the strengths and weakness were of other 470 helms and I decided that Hannah Mills was definitely the person I wanted to go forward with.
“I think our skillsets complement each other quite well. Hannah’s been in the 470 for a few years so she hasn’t got to learn to sail the boat, she’s already one of the fastest helms in certain conditions so we can straight away bang on with the racing and communication side of things and not have to spend time polishing up on sailing a 470 fast.
“I remember when Hannah started sailing a 470 – she’s obviously a huge talent.
“She’s had a difficult few years trying to find a crew that complements her, but even through that time she’s been 100 percent dedicated to wanting to achieve a gold medal for Team GB, and that was the factor for me that I was really looking for. We’ve had our first few days out in Palma and so far so good!”
With the RYA’s selectors starting to turn their thoughts towards their Games team choices during 2011, Clark and Mills will have an intense period during which to gel and fine-tune their partnership, but it’s a challenge which both say they’re excited about.
Mills said that so far their training was going well: “We seem to complement each other pretty well on the water and we both have good input for the other one, so we’re learning all the time and getting better pretty quickly so we’re excited!
“We’ve definitely got a lot to cram in, but with both our experiences and the drive that we have – especially coming into it late, it’s a good thing in a way as we definitely won’t get stale and we’ll be up for it 100% of the way.”