Southampton graduate and resident Helena Lucas became Team GB’s first ever Paralympic gold medalist for sailing on Thursday, September 6.
Due to a lack of wind, the final race of the series was called off in the afternoon, meaning our very own Paralympic athlete was awarded on the standings after the opening 10 races.
Lucas, 37, previously studied Yacht and Power Craft Design at Southampton University, graduating in 1996. She said:
“At the moment it is just a sense of relief. A lot of years have gone into this and finally, finally I have done it. I am obviously immensely happy and I just want to say a massive thank-you to everyone that has supported me.”
Following a 6-day regatta on the Dorset coast, she entered the final day with a nine-point cushion, winning gold in the single-person 2.4mR class. She commented on being the only woman in the 16-boat fleet:.
“It’s great to beat the boys. It’s funny, I have known all these guys for years and I often forgot that I was the only girl out there. At the beginning of the week, the guys weren’t too happy about a girl leading, but I think they finally got used to the fact I was sailing so well and would remain in gold position at the end. Let’s be honest, guys don’t like being beaten by a girl.”
Lucas is also the first GB athlete to win a medal in Paralympic Sailing history. Despite Great Britain’s prolific success in sailing events at the Olympics, we had never before received medals in the Paralympics since the sport’s introduction 12 years ago.
Born without thumbs and restricted arm movement, Lucas does not consider herself disabled, and only entered the Paralympics after failing to be selected for the able-bodied 470 class in Sydney and Athens. However, on Thursday she made history for British sailing, as a female and Paralympic athlete.