Emma Wilson was not yet born when her mother narrowly missed out on Olympic windsurfing glory in 1992 and 1996. But 25 years after Penny Way finished seventh in Atlanta, her daughter secured a medal for the family at last with bronze at the Enoshima Yacht Harbour.
Wilson entered the medals race on Saturday – where double points are available – in second place behind China’s Lu Yunxiu and narrowly ahead of Charline Picon of France. Picon, though, forged her way to victory, with Wilson second and Lu third. That made Lu the Olympic champion, with Picon taking silver and Wilson a much-cherished bronze. In the end the trio were separated by just two points, with fourth-placed Marta Maggetti a further 28 points back.
The 22-year-old Wilson, who finished no lower than sixth in 12 of the 13 races in the event, said she had endeavoured to enjoy the competition.
“My mum told me just to enjoy it, because she didn’t,” said Wilson, whose medal was the first for a female British windsurfer since Bryony Shaw’s bronze at Beijing 2008. “She had a lot of pressure as the triple world champion leading into it, and that’s always going to be hard.”
A still day at the at Enoshima forced the surfers to work incredibly hard to generate speed in the medals race. With Picon clear, Wilson pushed to the limit in an attempt to shake Lu from her tail but it was not quite enough to force her way further up the standings.
“Crossing the line was amazing, I just enjoyed the moment and you can tell us three were so close even in the medal race so just to get a medal well was amazing,” Wilson said. “I didn’t look back. I knew with the French girl ahead of me, it was whoever beat who, but second in the medal race – I couldn’t have done much more.
“Of course you want to win a gold medal, but I’ve got many more years to come so I hope I’ll be back, but for now I’m just going to enjoy the moment. Not many people get a medal at the Olympics, so I just have to be so grateful and happy.”
In the men’s event Tom Squires finished seventh, missing out on bronze by just seven points (three disqualifications in the medals race almost causing an almighty upheaval on the podium), but Britain has high hopes for more sailing medals, and there is optimism that the totals of Rio in 2016 (two golds and one silver), and London 2012 (one gold and four silvers) can be matched or eclipsed.
“Getting one away is quite important for the team and as soon as we knew Emma was guaranteed a medal the spirit was pretty powerful,” British Sailing’s Olympic performance manager, Mark Robinson, said.
“Now the trick is can we get the golds. The UK Sport target is four to seven medals but the British sailing team has always been about being the top nation, which generally speaking is the most golds and silvers.
“We’re still in the hunt in six or so but it is getting harder. It used to be that two medals out of 10 made you the top nation, but now you need three to be able to guarantee it.”
And there was plenty of good news for Robinson and co on the water on Saturday. Giles Scott strengthened his grip on gold in the men’s Finn class with victory in the second of the day’s two races. He leads by six points with three races remaining and looks set to retain the gold he won in the event in Rio.
In the Nacra 17, John Gimson and Anna Burnet picked up another win, their third in nine races so far. They sit in silver medal position, with four races still to come.
Also in second spot are the men’s skiff 49er pair of Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell. A seventh-place finish on Saturday leaves them in a strong position going into the medals race.
But there was disappointment for the GB women’s skiff 49er FX pair of Charlotte Dobson and Saskia Tiday. The duo won the opening two races of the competition but have struggled since the midway point and on Saturday finished well down the field in . They are fifth overall and face a battle to make up ground with just the medal race to come.