Great Britain’s Olympic gold medal-winning sailor Eilidh McIntyre has announced her retirement from the sport.
The 28-year-old won gold in the women’s 470 event at the delayed Tokyo 2020 games, alongside her team-mate Hannah Mills.
“I think this decision has been building for a long time,” McIntyre told BBC South Today.
“It is really hard because I am giving up on a dream.”
She added: “I knew if I was going to another Olympics it would be to challenge for another medal – but I’ve lost belief and I’ve lost my heart to go again.”
Since her triumph in Tokyo McIntyre, from Hayling Island in Hampshire, had been training with new team-mate Martin Wrigley after it was announced the 470 events at the next Olympic Games in Paris would be mixed gender.
“I know there is potential there with Martin but I just don’t think within the timeframe of the next Olympics we are going to get to be where we need to be.
“You can’t carry on in this world without belief in what you’re doing and as soon as I didn’t believe any more I knew I had to step away.
“It’s heartbreaking having to accept that you’re not at the level you want to be.
“Without a doubt I would love to go to the next Olympics and win another medal, but I think there is an element of realism and I just can’t continue push forward.”
‘My Tokyo experience was so powerful’
McIntyre joined British Sailing at the age of 15 and during her decade-long career won seven medals at major 470 class events, including a gold at the World Championships and two silvers at the European Championships.
She describes her Olympic gold as a dream come true.
“No words can ever describe what it is like to be at the Olympics and stood on that podium.
“My experience at the Games was so powerful and I loved it so much.
“In that moment at Tokyo 2020 I was the exact athlete I wanted to be.”
‘It’s a new world – daunting but exciting’
McIntyre, of Hayling Island Sailing Club, will pursue new opportunities in retirement and has already launched a podcast – while also looking to get into motivational speaking.
Whatever the future holds she says her experience in the world of sport has laid a solid foundation for success.
“Mentally it is going to be quite hard to transition away from professional sailing because it is all I ever wanted.
“Now I have to park everything I’ve ever known, every dream I’ve ever chased, and find a new adventure.
“Winning something like an Olympic gold can create a bit of a shadow, I think you can feel like nothing is ever going to live up to it, and you ask ‘will I ever be that person again?’.
“But I think I will, and I can take what I’ve learned from sport into something else.
“It’s a new world. It’s daunting, but quite exciting at the same time – I love a challenge.”
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(With Inputs from BBC)