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Emma Wilson: Britain’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Windsurfing medallist

Coming from a family of top level windsurfers, Britain’s Emma Wilson is guaranteed a medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing competition

It can be tough following in the footsteps of a two-time Olympian parent, but Emma Wilson is well on track to do just that.

From planing on the front of mum Penny’s board as a toddler Wilson has come a long way, demonstrating her potential as a future sailing Olympian by excelling among the youth and junior ranks at world level.

Windsurfing Wilsons

Emma’s mum, Penny became the Women’s’ World Racing Champion in 1986. Then won it again in 1990 and 1991. She finished 6th at the 1992 Olympic Games  sailing the then Olympic windsurfer, the Mistral in Barcelona and again in the 1996 games in Atlanta.

Penny gained significant recognition with appearances on BBC question of sport and even has a road named after her in Christchurch. She stopped being a full time windsurfer in 1996 following the Atlanta Olympics, aged 34, to start a family eventually having two children, Emma and 18 month older brother Dan Wilson, who has also been a part of the British Sailing Windsurfing team.

Emma Wilson: Youth champion

Emma’s first taste of a world title was at the age of just 12 when she took the U15 Techno 293 World Championship. Moving to the Olympic class windsurfer Wilson’s success continued with the RS:X Youth Worlds title in 2014.

After just missing out on the Youth Worlds title to future Rio 2016 bronze medallist Russia’s Stefania Elfutina in 2015 Wilson would show her drive to succeed coming back to win consecutive Youth Worlds golds in 2016 and 2017. Since then she has fast been becoming a regular fixture in the medal races at senior level.

Womens' RS:X Olympic Sailing

Britain’s Emma Wilson competing in Tokyo 2020. Photo: Sailing energy / World Sailing

British RS:X success

With the Emma Wilson’s determination and will to win, she performed well in the RS:X but being a part of the British Sailing Team has its advantages and disadvantages.

On the one hand Emma Wilson got to train against three-time olympic and two-time bronze medallist, Bryony Shaw. On the other, with only one Olympic spot open to each nation, she would have to beat the experienced Shaw, should she want to represent Britain at the 2016 Olympics. Ultimately it was Shaw who prevailed – winning her second bronze, though she was one of the favourites for gold ahead of the competition.

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Playing second fiddle to an established name is a constant in the world of Olympic sailing and many talented sailors have to wait their turn, particularly those competing for the strongest sailing nations. Giles Scott played understudy to Ben Ainslie in the Finn for many years, before he was finally able to get the nod of the selectors for Rio 2016 where he immediately picked up gold.

In recent years, however, Wilson has matured and with Shaw moving on from the Olympic circuit her time had come for Tokyo 2020. Wilson has enjoyed success in Japan in the lead up to these games, finishing fourth in the Olympic test event and take fifth in the RS:X World Cup in 2019.

Medal in the bag

The Men’s and Women’s RS:X windsurfers where the first fleets to get their racing underway in Enoshima – the venue for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing Competition. As such they will also be the first to finish their regattas, with both fleets competing in their medal race on Saturday 31 July 2021.

However, despite the medal race counting for double points – sailing’s way of trying to encourage an exciting denouement to olympic racing, by making a fight for medal more likely in the final race – Emma Wilson is already guaranteed a medal. The only question on Saturday on the waters of Enoshima will be which colour that medal might be.

Britain’s Emma Wilson leading the field in the Women’s windsurfer (RS:X) in the early part of the Olympic regatta in Tokyo 2020. Photo: Sailing Energy / World Sailing

Wilson led the fleet for much of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Sailing competition, only losing the lead to China’s Yunxiu Lu on the final day of racing. The fight for gold will be between these two and third place overall, the supremely talented Charline Picon from France, who claimed the gold medal in emphatic style in Rio 2016.

“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. My coach told me on the rib [of guaranteeing a medal] and it’s an amazing feeling. I’ve watched the Olympics since I was a little kid and it’s always been a dream. And finally I haven’t come fourth as well which is so good because I’m sick of it,” Wilson said after racing on Thursday 29 July.

“I’m super happy. One more race I can just give everything for and see what can happen.

“I had really good speed the last few days and that was really good. I have to say thank you to the lads in Weymouth who’ve trained with me. They all helped me so much. It’s an amazing feeling.

“I want to ring my brother as well because he has been pushing me since I was a little kid as well. That’s gonna be cool.

“I kept my cool when it was tight. Obviously today was harder than any other day because I had to think more about the other people but I think I’m really proud of how I’ve approached the whole event.”

Find out how you can follow the Olympic sailing competition. 


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