Amidst the thoroughly deserved adulation and praise being heaped on the Team GBR medal winners, a story emerges that is going to be fascinating leading up to Paris 2024. Whilst those fabulous Gold medal winners, the classy silver and the thoroughly deserved bronze get the headlines, the CBE’s, the meeting with the Prime Minister, a reception with Her Majesty and all the plaudits possible, spare a thought for Elliot Hanson, Team GBR’s Laser representative who, on the whim of a jurors decision, missed out on the Medal Race and finished 12th in this ultra competitive fleet.
Trust me, this is the story worth watching now. Elliot posted the following message as a wrap up after racing having aced a second place in race 9 before being disqualified for excessive kinetics in race 10 and thus denied the chance to duke it out for a podium:
“Not the way anyone wants to finish! I was sailing well yesterday and after a good penultimate race finishing second I had put myself back into contention if I could have another good one. I had a strong start in the final race and was going well before I was given a second yellow flag.
For those who aren’t sailors, it’s effectively a second yellow card for breaking propulsion rules. Upwind it’s quite rare and it’s hard to accept in the moment but something I’ll have to learn from. On reflection the umpires were quite strict yesterday and I should have acted accordingly from watching the girls who went before.
Throughout the week the umpires will rotate so you never quite know where the ‘line’ is and what one finds acceptable, the other won’t. It was a long sail in and meant it was game over for me finishing 12th. Overall the result is heartbreaking and on balance I feel I underperformed on the week. Whilst in the lighter winds I felt I was one of the strongest, I was a step behind in the stronger winds. Physically I was in the best shape of my life (special thanks to the people that got me there) but technically sailing the boat I wasn’t sharp, leaving me inconsistent in those conditions as tactically you then end up compromised, or simply get burnt off for pace. I did everything I could to rediscover that form in a difficult buildup but came up short.
I’ve always been able to take most things on the chin but this one will hurt for a while; hopefully I can use that as motivation for the future. Whilst I find the ultimate result this week a little embarrassing, I’ll hold my head high with how I’ve conducted myself for this Olympic Campaign. Thanks to each and every one of my supporters; family, friends, sponsors new and old for the messages. Sorry I haven’t replied yet but I will. In an individual sport it’s amazing to have an army behind you and I know some of you will have lived every high and low watching this week. “
Embarrassing? Not in the slightest Elliot. Let’s put this in perspective. You are the fastest Laser sailor in Britain today and you’ve just completed and competed in an Olympic Games. Even if the journey ended there, it’s an incredible achievement.
That Laser fleet is full of legends and speed freaks. Matt Wearn is something else, Tonci Stipanovic holds legend status in the class and what more can we say about Robert Scheidt who also had a difficult regatta. But the story now is that you are the Olympian to watch. It’s not how hard you fall, it’s how fast you get back up and I strongly suspect and sincerely hope that the fight back starts right now. Seeing those medallists has to be the greatest motivation and with the talent that you possess, you have to come again.
And with Team GBR, Elliot has a lot of firepower and support on his side. Undoubtedly the best coaches on the planet, I would be on the phone to Sid Howlett and Jez Fanstone dangling a carrot and teasing them with the line: “We have to end the Australian dominance of the Laser fleet.” Give those guys, those genius, wizard-like characters and others, a challenge like that and you’ll be out of bed two hours earlier and coming off the water three hours later. The programme they would devise would put Rocky Balboa to shame and by Paris 2024, three short years away, you’d have a World Championship under your belt (an upgrade to your European Championship) and not an inkling of self doubt.
As I say, this is the story to watch. What Team GBR do, under the ruthless performance direction of Ian Walker is polish diamonds like Hanson into Gold medal winners. What they are looking for is inherent speed and in Hanson that’s undeniable. Scoring 5th, 3rd, 7th and 2nd in an Olympic regatta of this quality is the calling card they need to start the finessing. That shows the coaches that there’s speed in there combined with the big-time personality and psyche and they can work with that. And what the world can see from the blog post above is that defeat hurts. That’s a huge positive. And I doubt that Team GBR will let Australia win four straight Golds in the Laser fleet – that’s not happening.
And I like the line about holding your head up high. Quite right. You can certainly do that. How many people ever get to the Olympics? How many have the talent combined with the dedication to say that they are Olympians? Not many. It’s a heck of an achievement and in the Laser fleet it’s so nip and tuck that I rather suspect it’s a mental game as much as a physical one. Big fleets equal fine margins and in a 35 boat fleet of pure one-designs where literally anyone can win, coming 12th overall having been DSQ’d in the final race is utterly respectable.
For Elliot it was a very tough build-up to the Games with surgery and injury de-railing his campaign. That he bounced back and came so close to the Medal Race is an achievement up there with the medallists. The story is now yours. And as those awesome sailors trip off to go and win the America’s Cup, drive gender diversity at the apex of the sport or double-down for another tilt at the Olympics, for Hanson it’s a case of drawing on every resource available and finding that steely determination to mount the come-back of all come-backs. Losing hurts, especially in a winning team, but the Olympic bar is set and the runway is clear. He knows what he needs to do and knows the performance level. Gold in Paris 2024 and an end of the Aussie dominance is a prize worth fighting for.
Stick up a photo of Wearn in your home gym. Get your hate on. Don’t listen to naysayers. Surround yourself with the best. Focus like never before. Train like every day matters. Sail beyond reason. Face every day, every session like an Olympic Medal Race. Apply the pressure on yourself constantly. Never give up. Eat, sleep, sail, repeat.
Elliot Hanson – we’re watching you. Go and win that Gold. It’s written in the stars.