After an impressive campaign in which she only once finished outside the top five in 12 preliminary races, the 22-year-old had the luxury of starting the final double-points race secure in the knowledge that the elusive place on the podium was in the bag.
In benign conditions that contrasted sharply with those of most of the qualifying rounds, Wilson ceded the silver medal position to Charline Picon of France, who streaked over the line in first place.
China’s Lu Yunxiu, who knew she would take gold so long as she closely trailed her two medal rivals, carefully tracked Wilson over the line before all three medallists celebrated by leaping into the sea.
Bronze for Wilson represented the first medal for a female British windsurfer since Bryony Shaw took bronze in Beijing in 2008.
And there was particular satisfaction for the Wilson household after her mother, Penny Way, finished in sixth and seventh positions in the same category in the 1992 and 1996 Games respectively.
Way had gone into her two Games burdened by the pressure of being a multiple world champion, while 25 years on Wilson’s particular hang-up was a succession of major fourth place finishes, including at the test event two years ago.
“My mum told me just to enjoy it, because she didn’t,” said Wilson. “She had a lot of pressure as the triple world champion leading into it, and that’s always going to be hard.”
Way’s achievements made significant enough waves for the road to the sailing club in Christchurch to be renamed in her honour, and Wilson laughed off suggestions that she might be afforded a similar honour.
“I wouldn’t mind a road if they want to give me one,” she said.
“I was just the little annoying one coming fourth all the time, so I didn’t feel the pressure. I gave it everything and in the end I came third, but I am still super, super happy.”
Having battled her way to the podium, Wilson now faces a significant challenge if she wishes to repeat the feat at the Paris Olympics in 2024.
Sailing chiefs have ratified a change in equipment from the RS:X to the iFoil, a faster and lighter board that effectively hovers above the water.
“This windsurfer is out of the Olympics now but I think the new one could suit me more,” added Wilson. “I’m tall and I think you need to be bigger for the new one, so that’s good.
“But for now I just want to enjoy this moment and have a rest and cheer on the rest of the team.”
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