Tokyo-bound Hanson picking top sailer's brains ahead of Olympic bow

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Sailing ace Elliot Hanson has been using lockdown to pick the brains of Olympic legends.

Macclesfield’s Hanson had already secured his spot on the plane to Tokyo when the Games were suspended, enjoying a thrilling 2018 that saw him triumph in a World Cup Series event at the Olympic venue of Enoshima.

A fifth-place finish in the World Championships in Melbourne soon followed, as the 26-year-old set about following in the footsteps of Olympic hero Sir Ben Ainslie – who also hails from his hometown.

And Hanson, one of 1,100 elite-level athletes funded by the National Lottery, says he spotted an opportunity to learn from the four-time Olympic gold medallist when sport was put on hold.

“I’ve done a lot of talking with past British Olympians from the sailing team,” he said.

“I’ve been on the phone to Iain Percy, while I’ve also reached out to Hugh Styles and Sir Ben Ainslie, who I know from being in his Youth America’s Cup team back in 2017.

“I know Ben reasonably well and we’re on good terms – what’s nice is he’s told me his phone is always open, and it’s great to have those guys who are still so passionate about Olympic sailing.

“I’ve really drawn down and made use of all these resources that I knew the team had, and made them relevant to myself – I saw a great deal of value in that.

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“I think quite often, these legends of the sport finish their last Games and disappear, and there’s quite often a feeling among the young sailors then that you lose that experience.

“I made a real point of trying to chase after some of that experience from Olympic legends – it’s been really useful being able to pick their brains about their advice going forward.”

National Lottery’s funding helps laser sailor Hanson and teammates access UK Sport’s World Class Programme, allowing them to train full-time, work with the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology.

And that support since 1997 has helped Olympic and Paralympic athletes soar to 864 medals, with the precocious Hanson now vying to add his name to that illustrious list.

Hanson has endured a bumpy ride on his way to securing Olympic qualification, struggling with injuries during his burgeoning career and narrowly missing out on a medal at the 2018 World Championships in Aarhus.

He also languished back in 22nd in a Ready Steady Tokyo test event but with an extra year of preparation ahead of the Games in the same city, he reckons he can take the Japanese water by storm.

“The final few months ahead of the Games will just be sharpening up and feeling fresh so I can hit the ground running, so I’m really looking forward to it,” he added.

“For me, if I can get my processes right between now and then the racing itself will just be a confirmation for me that it’s gone well.

“Setting that goal of that very top step on the podium makes you do all the things you need to do on a daily basis, and as long as I can execute the performance I know I want to, then the podium part takes care of itself.”

No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around £30 million each week for good causes. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has at and #TNLAthletes #TracktoTokyo