Retirement a 'struggle' for Olympic champion Clark

Saskia Clark was speaking at an event in Stratford to mark the 25th anniversary of the National Lottery

Saskia Clark revealed she’s struggled to cope with retirement after achieving her lifelong dream of becoming Olympic champion, writes Tom Harle.

Alongside Hannah Mills, the 40-year-old settled for silver in the 470 class at London 2012 after being in the lead for long periods. In Rio, they upgraded that colour to gold in stunning fashion.

With the fanfare of Olympic gold and being awarded an MBE now firmly in the past, Clark says finding a new purpose and dealing with life away from sport has been a huge challenge.

“I’m not going to lie, I’ve struggled a bit on my own with retirement,” said Clark.

“It’s been a lot more complicated than I thought it would be. It’s just hard.

“As a former Olympic sailor, you don’t have enough money to retire to a desert island in comfort and my ultimate dream was always a gold medal.

“Leaving sailing in the best way, winning that gold, took away the dream I had since I was 12. I’ve had to find some new goals, some new dreams and some new aspirations to chase.”

Clark was speaking at the Olympic Park in Stratford, where she joined 25 past and present British athletes to mark the 25-year anniversary of the National Lottery.

Since the National Lottery’s first draw took place on 19 November 1994, more than £40 billion has been raised for good causes in the areas of arts, sport, heritage, culture, film, charity and community, with more than 4,500 elite athletes receiving grants enabling them to access the best coaching, facilities and support staff in the world.

Before funding began for elite sport, Great Britain were ranked 36th in the medal table at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, but at Rio 2016 – after almost two decades of funding – Team GB finished second.

Mills will be aiming to extend Britain’s fine record in the 470 class alongside Eilidh McIntyre this time, and Clark rates their chances of converting world gold into Olympic glory next year.

“I expect them to win gold,” said Clark.

“You need a real mix of skills to succeed. You need the experience and the Olympic Games smarts.

“The Olympics is such a big deal for sailing. It’s our standout event for four years, you might only ever go to one Games. You really need to and want to deliver for that one week in August.

“You need the experience and the old head, but to get through that intense four years of training, you need youthful energy to drive you forward and excitement.

“Having these teams of different ages, like Hannah and I were and Hannah and Eilidh are, is a great combination.”

Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has had on your community over the past 25 years by visiting www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the 25th hashtag: #NationalLottery25