Over the next year we will be bringing you guest blogs from the Tokyo 2020 selected athletes who will give you an insight in to their lives in the run up to the Olympic Games – this month, ILCA7 sailor Elliot Hanson.
Despite everything going on in the world, I’m happy I get this month’s blog as I have been part of something really special – and as part of a team, not something a Laser sailor can say very often.
I was fortunate enough to win a European Championship title, but sweeter than that, I got to stand on the podium with two of my mates, and training partners, in a rare feat of locking out a podium on the international stage.
The Euros were held in Poland, and as everyone will know, us sailors are no strangers to flying or going to countries around the world, but this started off a little strange.
Because I do travel a lot I’m used to the whole ‘airport experience’, but in these uncertain times even this was different.
After a first flight was cancelled at another airport a few days previous, I had to fly out of Gatwick. It was so much quieter than usual which felt a bit bizarre, but looking at the positive, getting through security was a breeze, which was a pleasant surprise.
The regatta was in Gdansk and it had a certain air of familiarity about it for me. I’d been there previously on holiday with a few friends and looking at the topography it reminded me of UK qualifiers back home in the North-East of England.
Micky (Beckett) my training partner and I had been looking at this event for a while as a bit of a marker for us. We have been training together in the UK all summer – trying to find the balance between too many hours on the water and not going stale – and the Euros was an opportunity to see if our sharing of knowledge and training was paying off.
We also had a lot of input for this event from people like our coach Chris Gowers, Nick Thompson and James Gray (P3 coach), so we were really using it as our performance regatta.
The whole week me, Micky and Lorenzo (Chiavarini) – who had just come back from injury – were right up there. I don’t think any of us fell out of the top five all week. It became obvious for us all after day one we were sailing well.
It’s not like the fleet wasn’t strong either. You have people like Pavlos (Kontides) who is a multiple world champion and Olympic medallist, Tonci (Stipanovic) who also has an Olympic medal and probably more Euros medals than times I’ve competed in it. The list goes on and on.
I’ve said this before and I’ve taken a lot of stick for it but I really mean it. I would have given up winning to make sure all three of us stood on the podium. Yes, it’s great to win, of course it is, but in my opinion to get a country to lock out a podium is unlikely to happen again so you do anything to make sure you’re part of that, even if it means trading a gold for a silver or bronze.
Sometimes it’s about the bigger picture and being part of something greater. I definitely think that individually we can all fight for the title again, but as a collective on the podium, I’m not so sure.
That full British podium is a bit of an odd dynamic. It’s almost like the more you are mates the more you want to beat each other. Not in an aggressive or ‘enemies’ way, just in a kind of ‘got to beat my mates’ way. We are good mates off the water and that for us is healthy competition and really works – as we proved.
Seeing Lorenzo up there mixing it in the top of the rankings was no surprise, well certainly not for me. I think he surprised himself as he had been out for so long and hadn’t had much time in the boat, but he is someone who will always be in and around the top guys at a major regatta. And for me personally it’s great to have him back.
I’m going to let you in to a little bit of behind the scenes of the British Sailing Team here – but we have a team awards each year and there is a sort of ‘coach of the year’ award which Gowers never wins. Me, Micky and Gowers were all in a bubble together in Poland and going in to the final day we were talking about the award – and me and Micky told him we will at least try and get him in to the top three this year…he came second in the end so technically job done.
Like many, I’ve had a little bit of extra time on my hands over the past few months – time that I have used to do something I really need to do. Fundraise. An Olympic campaign costs money and fundraising is part of that journey. So, as well as keeping myself physically fit I have been looking at the financial side of sailing.
I had a little campaign going that I called ’20 For 2020’. It brought together a group of individuals who could join me on my journey to win an Olympic gold.
This campaign made me realise the amazing support I have. It’s humbling that some of the people helping me now are the ones who started helping me to even start sailing – from my sailing club, to coaches, to individual financial support.
Now for the coming months. The country is in lockdown again and I’m going to continue a focus on maintaining physically and really look forward to some strong December sailing and getting back to the boat.