Christchurch windsurfer Emma Wilson secures Olympic bronze at Tokyo 2020
CHRISTCHURCH'S Emma Wilson has become a bronze medallist in her Olympic debut in Tokyo.
Wilson, the youngest member of the UK sailing team, raced superbly, coming in the top two on seven out of 13 races.
Going into the final day in second place, the 22-year-old needed to beat China's Lu Yunxiu by two positions to lift gold. However, France's Charline Picon made the best start out of the leading trio, and she held on to her advantage to take silver.
Wilson has become the second British female ever to win a windsurfing medal after Bryony Shaw's bronze in 2008 in Beijing.
On a hot and humid day with very little wind, the athletes needed to pump their sails to gain an advantage – a particularly gruelling way to race.
Wilson said: "Those were so physical those conditions. I gave it absolutely everything and, in the end, I came third, but still, it was amazing to get a medal, and I'm super happy.
"My tactics were just to give it absolutely everything, and there wasn't too much I could do, as it was a three-way battle, so on the second lap, I just emptied my body, and I got second in the race and came third overall, but I'm super, super happy."
Wilson did not make the best start, rounding the first two timed marks seventh out of a possible 10 positions. However, a remarkable recovery saw her climb to second as the leading trio pulled away from the pack.
Picon crossed the line first with a massive 32-second lead.
Lu, who had closely marked Wilson throughout the final race, crossed in third a few seconds after the GB athlete.
After crossing the line, the three exhausted but jubilant medallists jumped into the water and celebrated the culmination of their hard work.
Wilson's mother Penny is a former three-time windsurfing world champion who represented Great Britain at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, although she never medalled.
Wilson continued: "My Mum has been a big influence, but also there's so many other people as well like my coach Barry and my family, his family, my training partners, I mean everyone has just given so much, and I just have to thank so many people. The medal's not just for me but for everyone else as well.
"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 was amazing. I didn't look back. I knew with the French girl ahead of me, it was whoever beat who, but I mean second in the medal race, I couldn't have done much more. I'm so tired now.
"I think 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."
Wilson's place on the podium will taste all the sweeter after falling out of medal contention on the final day in multiple senior events since leaving the junior ranks.
Wilson added: "I guess I was just so sick of coming fourth, but I knew what that felt like, so it couldn't get much worse than that. I just keep smiling, enjoying the moment and I didn't feel too much pressure because just to be at the Olympics is amazing. I'm really proud of the way I approached it.
"I know my Mum didn't enjoy the Olympics, so for me to enjoy it was important. I think that she actually had a lot of pressure as she was triple world champion leading into it, and that's always going to be hard, but I was just a little annoying one who kept coming fourth, so I didn't feel that pressure."
This year's RS:X competition will be the class's final Olympic Games after World Sailing announced that governing bodies should make the switch from the traditional RS:X to foiling in preparation for Paris 2024.
Wilson finished: "It's just amazing. I'm super happy. It's just three years until the next Olympics, so that's very cool. This winter, windsurfing is out of the Olympics, so I have to learn another new category, but if I can do that and come back, it would be amazing. I do hope to be back, it's going to be weird, but I think the new category will possibly suit me as I'm tall and I think you need to be bigger for the new ones, so that's good for me.
"But for now, I just want to enjoy this, have a rest, and just celebrate this. Now I can go celebrate with the team where we are, and I hope some more of the team also get some medals. I'm looking forward to celebrating with them and then when I get home I'll celebrate with my family and friends. I didn't believe I'd be the first person to get a medal, but it's cool, and I hope everyone else does well too."