Team GB rules the waves with double gold medal wins
Tearful and proud family members watched on as Team GB ruled the waves in Tokyo with sailors scooping double Olympic gold medal glory on Tuesday.
Giles Scott won gold in the men’s Finn class, Britain’s sixth successive title in the event, shortly after fellow sailors Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell narrowly claimed first in the men’s 49er.
There were tears and jubilant scenes at Hollingworth Lake Sailing Club near Rochdale, Greater Manchester, as Bithell’s parents Vivian and Leslie watched the pair take the final turn in second but then edge over the finish line in front.
The pair went into the final medal race, where double points are awarded, in second, four points behind New Zealand’s Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, but victory for Fletcher and Bithell and third for New Zealand saw them claim the title.
Viv Bithell, 68, told the PA news agency: “It’s been really exciting and we are absolutely delighted what’s happened.
“We’ve spoken to him on Facetime and he’s absolutely beaming and can’t believe it, he said himself it’s not sunk in yet, so there’s going to be some celebrations going on in the next week or so.”
Fletcher’s mother Jane spoke of the agonising wait to see her son in action, after the race was postponed 24 hours due to low wind.
She told Good Morning Britain: “We were in the shaking position yesterday morning and then we had to stop shaking and then start shaking again this morning. I haven’t stopped! I’ve been blubbing all over the place, it’s amazing.”
And Bithell’s partner Katherine Kimber cracked open the champagne to celebrate at Parkstone Yacht Club in Poole, Dorset, telling Good Morning Britain: “It was just so tense right into the last second, it was just amazing to watch.”
Meanwhile, Scott finished fourth in his medal race to end the event on 45 points overall, just three points ahead of second place in a nail-biting finish.
The 34-year-old retained the title he won at Rio 2016, finishing ahead of Hungary’s Zsombor Berecz and Spain’s Joan Cardona Mendez.
Scott, from Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, said: “I made it by the skin of my teeth, it was properly to the wire, it was really tight. I tried to stay relaxed but I’ve never been involved in a boat race as close as that.”
Scott’s father John described his pride as he and his wife Ros watched on at the National Sailing Academy in Weymouth, Dorset.
“I’m afraid I was up at 2.30am, I couldn’t sleep – but fortunately there was plenty on the telly, so I was watching all the sport, getting ready for this ride,” the 69-year-old told PA.
“I’m proud for him as much I’m proud of him… he’s shown his mettle by coming back into this boat, and after a really rocky first day, showing why he was defending Olympic champion.”
The couple spoke to their son via video call after his victory, when Mr Scott said his son told him ‘I’m relieved to see I didn’t give you a heart attack’.
The wins at Japan’s Enoshima Yacht Harbour took Britain’s gold medal haul to 13.
There was also a silver for Olympic debutants John Gimson and Anna Burnet in the mixed Nacra 17 class, who finished in fifth in the medal race to stay in second place behind Italians Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti.
Burnet’s mother Louise Burnet, from Shandon, Gare Loch, in Argyll and Bute, Scotland, said she was “completely over the moon” after the “awesome result”.
Mrs Burnet told PA: “We would never ever have dreamed of this happening.
“I’m a very proud mum.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the display on the water as a “brilliant performance”.
Elsewhere, Great Britain struck silver in the velodrome, with cyclist Jason Kenny equalling Sir Bradley Wiggins’ record medal tally of eight.
He missed the first of his three chances to move clear of Sir Chris Hoy’s Olympic gold medal tally as Team GB came second in the men’s team sprint, while his wife Laura Kenny and the women’s team pursuit squad also had to settle for silver.
And there was another medal in the pool as Harrogate’s Jack Laugher, 26, bagged the third Olympic medal of his diving career with bronze in the men’s 3m springboard final at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.