Pippa Wilson: 'As soon as we saw the fish, we knew that gold was in the bag'

Pippa Wilson recalls her golden days as one of the 'three blondes in a boat' who grabbed GB's first sailing gold of 2008

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The Independent Online

A little fish jumped out of the water in front of us. We all saw it. I can't quite describe why but that was the moment we knew we were going to win the gold medal.

It happened in the closing stages of the medal race. Sarah Webb, Sarah Ayton and I were all focusing on the tactics. This was the ninth and final race and the Dutch boat of Mandy Mulder, Annemieke Bes and Merel Witteveen were just one point behind us. We had one goal: to stay ahead of them. I was keeping constantly in touch with their exact position. The weather was closing in, the wind was up, yet it was foggy and we could barely see the finishing line. We knew we were ahead and that gave us a lot more tactical freedom. But in sailing it can go wrong very quickly, so we weren't taking anything for granted. And then there was this little fish. It was so random. It was so surreal. It was one moment of clarity and that was it. We were around the second mark and away. Britain's first sailing gold of 2008.

It never really sunk in. We just wanted to be the best in the world, be the best we could be, and we did it. The other two had already won gold before. But I didn't know what to expect. I couldn't really take it in. The Olympics had been my dream, my one goal. I had partnered one girl for a couple of years but it never truly worked out. We got to around five in the world, but we were never going to get gold. Then the two Sarahs called. Shirley Robertson had been the third part of the trio in the previous Olympics, but she moved on and they called me. We gelled right from the beginning.

We were in China for three months beforehand so we didn't really see too much of the build-up. We were in our own little bubble. I had no idea what the reception was going to be like. It was only when we got to the closing ceremony that we started to get a feel of what we had achieved. That was amazing. And then the whole team were flown back in a gold-nosed aeroplane. We got home and it seemed like the whole airport was saluting us. The Prime Minister (Gordon Brown) met us off the plane. It was all overwhelming. When I got home, I saw so many people that I hadn't seen for months. I had been focused on the Games for so long, and now I was back with them. It was just amazing and even now I find it difficult to comprehend it all.

But there was one downside. We knew we would never get the chance to defend our title. The decision to omit Yngling from 2012 had been made a year out from Beijing. And we all knew there would be nothing suitable for us to continue in the same team in 2012. But the talent for the British team to sweep the board is still there.

It is difficult to truly understand why Britain has developed such a great reputation in sailing. It helps that we are such a supportive unit. The only disappointment is that we can't take more than one boat in each class. Sometimes we have three or even five boats in the top 10 in the world. The depth of talent helps push us on even more. In the past decade, we've created an era of sailing that has stayed with the sport. You can have the talent, but in sailing experience is paramount. And success fuels success. We all learn together and develop together. It's no surprise that large number of this year's team are in their 30s. But there is a new generation behind them ready to step up, learning all the time.

I have no idea what makes Britain so special. Perhaps it's just because it's wet and windy!

This series was run in conjunction with Richard House Children's Hospice which caters for children with life-threatening conditions. Each year it needs to raise £2.7m to keep going. The Olympians in this series all agreed to share their memories to raise awareness of the hospice. To find out more visit www.facebook.com/richardhousech