BST blog – Hannah Mills – Train and prepare, that’s all I can do

Written by 22nd February 2021 Blog, Tokyo 2020

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, 470 helm Hannah Mills.

2020 was a pretty difficult and crazy year for everyone and 2021 so far hasn’t been much different!

The Christmas period was challenging – myself and Eilidh had come home from a training camp in Lanzarote when a week later most of Europe shut its borders to the UK due to the ‘UK Covid variant’.

New Year’s Day arrived and with it a new lockdown for the foreseeable future in the UK and the prospect of training for the Olympics in Weymouth for January and February. I’ve done plenty of time training in the UK winter and most years we would just suck it up and get on with it even though our training would be slightly compromised, but an Olympic year is different. Every day counts and with all our competitors heading back to Lanzarote to train together and do some small regattas, it felt like a big challenge to try and get the right training for this time in the Olympic cycle.

We got our boat rigged and ready in Weymouth, but we were hanging on to a sliver of hope that our Spanish training partners would be able to get us an exemption to fly to Lanzarote to train with them through their government.

Having done our Covid test 72 hours before a potential flight, we’d all but given up hope of getting the nod to be able to go. However, 8pm the night before a 7am flight from Stansted, we got confirmation from the Spanish Government that we would be allowed to go.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt more privileged and lucky to do what I do than during that training camp. We worked harder than we’ve probably ever worked and made the most out of every single day. We sailed 20 out of 23 days and came away feeling like we’d made big strides forward.

Right now, I’m back at home in quarantine before heading to Vilamoura for our 470 World Championships which take place at the start of March.

Whether events and training camps should or should not be happening, it is hard for me to say. I get asked all the time at the moment whether the Olympic Games should or will happen. As an athlete who has invested everything into this Olympic campaign it is almost impossible to give an unbiased answer. We are too emotionally invested in the decision. All we can do is train and prepare as hard as possible every single day, until we are told something different. We know that’s exactly what our competitors are doing too.

One thing I know for sure is that training for an Olympic Games in times like these is a complete luxury (even more so than usual). I have a purpose and something incredible on the horizon to aim for. I know a lot of people don’t have that right now and I know how much of an impact that can have on your mental health. I’ve certainly had dark and difficult days – January 1st was probably one of my worst. I felt hopeless, drained and convinced the Olympics was going to be cancelled. My best advice for those days is to hold on to the people closest to you. Give your friends or family a call and talk to someone – as hard as that can be sometimes.

Going forward we have learnt a slightly different approach to campaigning this Olympic cycle. Usually almost everything is within our control and we strive towards getting the ‘perfect preparation’ for our team in the build-up to the Olympics. However, this time that just isn’t possible. We now try to take each day for what it is, make decisions based on what we know – being ready to adapt and change when we have to, but mostly not getting too stressed or wound up by all the moving parts we can’t control.

Right now we are preparing to go to Portugal for the Worlds (taking all appropriate precautions and abiding by all government guidelines), to deliver our best possible performance and learn all we can about performing under pressure for the Olympic Games. After all, the last time we had to perform under pressure was August 2019…