Team GB’s Tokyo 2020 sailing team will be bolstered by the addition of multihull experts John Gimson and Anna Burnet, the British Olympic Association (BOA) has announced.
Gimson and Burnet will fly the flag for Team GB in the mixed Nacra 17, making their Olympic debuts on the waters of Enoshima, just south of Tokyo, when the Games kicks off on July 24 – six months to the day.
Gimson, 36, from Congleton in Cheshire, and Burnet, 27, from Shandon, Scotland, were picked to represent Team GB after a gruelling battle for the one Nacra 17 berth at Tokyo 2020.
The selection trial concluded with them taking fourth at the 2019 World Championships, adding to the silvers they won at the Ready Steady Tokyo test event and the 2019 European Championships.
Gimson’s Team GB nod 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, the Three Blondes in a Boat, 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 medallists 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.
“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.”
Burnet, the niece of legendary New Zealand yachtsman Sir Peter Blake, added: “When Mark told us we’d been selected it took a while to sink in, and then half an hour later I burst into tears. It’s been such a long process to get to this stage that it still hasn’t fully sunk in.
“My parents are super happy, and I have so much to thank them for in getting this far. I’ve always dreamed of going to the Games but never assumed it would just happen. When I was younger I went to a talent camp that [double Olympic silver medallist sailor] Joe Glanfield was the sailing mentor for and we set out a realistic plan to aim for the 2020 Olympics. I think that plan has worked out ok!
“Now it seems like the Olympics is coming round fast and we’ve got so much to do, but I can’t wait to be part of it.”
Team GB Chef de Mission Mark England said: “Congratulations to John and Anna for securing their spot on Team GB. Tokyo 2020 will be a special occasion for them both as they make their Olympic debut on waters of Enoshima in just six months’ time. We wish them the best of luck at their World Championships taking place next month.”
Mark Robinson, Team GB Sailing Team Leader and RYA Olympic Performance Manager, added: “We are delighted to have John and Anna onboard for Tokyo 2020. They have proven that they are among the best in the world in the Nacra 17, and we look forward to seeing them in action on the waters of Enoshima this summer.”
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 overall Olympic sailing medal table.
Gimson and Burnet join the 12 sailors representing eight classes already named for Team GB, including defending gold medallists Hannah Mills and Giles Scott.
Of the ten Olympic sailing classes, only the Laser men’s single-hander representative is yet to be announced.
Team GB’s Tokyo 2020 sailors:
Giles Scott: Finn (Men’s One Person Dinghy Heavy)
Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre: 470 Women (Women’s Two Person Dinghy)
Luke Patience and Chris Grube: 470 Men (Men’s Two Person Dinghy)
Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tidey: 49erFX (Women’s Skiff)
Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell: 49er (Men’s Skiff)
Alison Young: Laser Radial (Women’s One Person Dinghy)
Emma Wilson: RS:X Women (Women’s Windsurfer)
Tom Squires: RS:X Men (Men’s Windsurfer)
John Gimson and Anna Burnet: Nacra 17 (Mixed Multihull)