Saskia Clark One Year On: Back from a break and revved up for Rio

All this week, as we approach the anniversary of the 2012 Olympic Games on 27 July, we’ve been hearing from members of the 2012 British Sailing Team who reflect on their own Games experiences, how they themselves were inspired by 2012, and on life and sailing since the London Olympic flame went out and the focus switched to Rio 2016.

In our penultimate #2012inspired blog, West Mersea’s Saskia Clark looks back on her Games experiences, having won 470 class silver with Hannah Mills after just an 18-month campaign together. Clark and Mills took time out of the sport after London, but have returned to the 470 this month ahead of the 470 World Championships in La Rochelle next month

It really doesn’t feel like we’re a year on from the Games. I still feel really excited, I can hear my voice wobbling a bit when I talk about it sometimes and get really emotional.

I’m really proud of how amazing Britain was during the Games, how everyone got involved, how excited everyone was by it and how still now, a year later, people still want to talk about it when you meet them. I’m so proud that we hosted such an amazing event.

It’s obviously really cool that I was part of Team GB’s medal success. It’s quite funny how the performance side feels quite separate and different to the Olympics side. It’s testament to how well Hannah and I and Joe prepared for the Games so that we didn’t get overawed by the whole thing.

Obviously there are nerves and excitement going into the Games, but given the circumstances of our late partnership I think Hannah and I felt reasonably calm and ready for racing. We were one of the last to start, and we’d rehearsed that. Ben, Iain and Bart won their medals the day after we started so that whole dynamic is quite different in an event build up. We were really ready to go racing.

The Games effect has been huge. I have visited a lot of schools and local clubs and it’s awesome to meet the kids, but the bigger picture of how the parents and older people really enjoyed it and really loved the Games is maybe even more impressive in terms of legacy. Obviously there’s the sporting legacy and I really hope that some of the young kids who watched the Games get a dream and grab it and really try and achieve it. Also for non-sporty people, the same is true academically or career-wise or lifestyle-wise, whatever it might be.

There was a real sense of achievement and involvement from the wider public, maybe dispelling this sense that we quite often have in Britain that we can’t do things, and that actually if we all get amongst it and join and have a great time, that you can pull something great off.

I think the best moment of the Games for me was ‘Super Saturday’. I remember us all watching it and feeling really emotional! That was our second day of racing and it was a classic Olympics evening, with three gold medals and it was quite the moment of ‘wow, we’re a few days away from this maybe happening. We need to try and make this happen for us’. That really stands out.

Saskia Clark (left) and Hannah Mills in action at the 2012 Olympic Games
Saskia Clark (left) and Hannah Mills in action at the 2012 Olympic Games - © Richard Langdon/British Sailing Team

On our second to last day of racing when we’d secured a silver medal and we knew we were going into the medal race on equal points with gold, we had a real sense of relief that we hadn’t choked, that we had delivered and everything that we’d planned for we got to that point. The goal was to go into the medal race with a chance of winning a gold medal, so to have the silver medal secured and the gold medal very much on, that was a real sense of relief that day.

I’m still massively disappointed that we didn’t manage to turn silver into gold and that it wasn’t a classic medal race. Thirteen years later people still talk about Ben and Robert Scheidt in that Sydney final race and it would’ve been good to have had some kind of interaction with the Kiwis like that, so you’d feel like whoever walked away with the gold really felt like they’d won it.

I feel that me and Hannah really lost the gold rather than anything else. But you live and learn, and we learned that there was a bit of a hole in our training to do with the match racing side of things within ten boats and that’s something we’ll work on this time.

After the Olympics, Hannah and I took some time out, and have just returned to the 470 this month. We wanted to be sailing and know first of all that we were committed and that it was what we wanted to do. We didn’t want to do any sailing where we felt like we were just dragging our heels and waiting for some time to tick by.

Our focus and our goal is on Rio 2016, it’s not on the World Championships 2013, so we’re definitely going to take some short-term hits. We’re not practiced right now, but for the long-term and the outcome in four years’ time it’s been really great to take a real step back from sailing and from the team, get fresh and come back really motivated, which we are.

As everyone did, we put in everything physically, emotionally, into our campaign, and you do inevitably feel a bit empty after that time and need to take a step back. We could have put our heads down and charged on with the emotion of not winning the gold medal. That would have been the best outcome in terms of our results this summer, but eventually that wears down and it won’t keep you going for four years so we needed to take a break.

In that time I’ve been doing some work experience, because I’m pretty sure that this will be my last Olympic campaign so I wanted to have clear idea of what my post-2016 life might look like. I’ve been working with an amazing marketing company doing things for them and finding out about a marketing career path and what they get up to. My sister lives in America with her six-year-old twins so I’ve been to see them a few times and have been ‘Auntie Day Care’, which is exhausting – the hardest job ever! I was also a bit ill with pneumonia so I had some enforced bed rest as well, and for the last few months I’ve been trying to rebuild my fitness which takes a battering after having six months off!

Saskia Clark (left) and Hannah Mills in action at the 2012 Olympic Games
Saskia Clark (left) and Hannah Mills in action at the 2012 Olympic Games - © Richard Langdon/British Sailing Team

It’s a bit gutting to be going to a Worlds next month as defending champions and realistically we’re not in a position to defend our title. The other girls have been sailing all winter, the Kiwi gold medallists have been sailing back linger than us, so we’re just going to have to give it our best shot given where we are. It is what it is, and we’ll just have to probably lose our title this summer with the bigger picture in mind for Rio.

At least going to the Worlds it gives us a really clear indicator of where we are, and where we need to go for the next year or two. The next couple of weeks is trying to get as close to where we were last summer, try and get back some of what we had, race the Worlds and then go from there to build our winter training programme.

This year has given me a real opportunity to step back and think if I was up for another Olympic campaign. I’ve had some moments where I’ve thought it’s been time to move on to a new adventure.

We did lots of things well in London, but there are definitely some holes where we could have done better that are spurring me on to carry on and I’m up for the challenge of putting those right!

Check out our #2012inspired sailor blogs at www.britishsailingteam.com as we celebrate the build up to the Games Anniversary on 27 July – and share your own #2012inspired stories on the British Sailing Team Facebook page for the chance to win some fantastic prizes!








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