LONDON - The Japanese crew of Ai Yoshida and Miho Yoshioka are aiming for a gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics following their historic triumph on Thursday in the women’s 470 class at the Sailing World Championships in Denmark.
The victory in the coastal city of Aarhus was the first gold for Japan in any class at a world championships or Olympics, the Japan Sailing Federation said.
Yoshida, 37, and Yoshioka, 27, teamed up to finish fifth at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games but have set their sights much higher for the next Olympics in home waters.
“This has given us confidence. We’re aiming for gold in Tokyo,” Yoshioka said.
The pair started the day in first place and finished fifth, but had done enough in the previous races to ensure a relatively comfortable gold.
They finished ahead of Spain’s Patricia Cantero Reina and Silvia Mas Depares, while Britain’s Rio gold medalist Hannah Mills and her new crew Eilidh McIntyre took bronze.
Despite knowing the mathematics were in their favor, the final race was an anxious affair, according to skipper Yoshida, who said the nerves gave way to elation upon crossing the line.
“I was so nervous I was trembling, but at the finish I was so happy I couldn’t speak. I’ve never been so happy,” Yoshida said.
After meeting at the 2012 London Olympics, Yoshida and Yoshioka decided to team up and began training together.
Yoshida took time out from competition last year to give birth to a son, her first child with husband Yugo, a former Olympian in the 470 class.
During Yoshida’s absence, Yoshioka traveled abroad to improve her sailing skills.
The two-seater 470 class is renowned for close racing and is contested over a series of races at the Olympics and world championships.
The JSF hopes Yoshida and Yoshioka’s victory will result in greater public attention on sailing at the 2020 Tokyo Games. The sailing competition will take place on Sagami Bay in Kanagawa Prefecture just as it did during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.