How Harborough is celebrating Dylan Fletcher's dramatic Olympic gold medal victory

Town leaders express their pride after the former Robert Smyth Academy pupil wins gold for Great Britain at the Olympic Games in Tokyo

Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 11:27 am
Updated Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 11:28 am
Dylan Fletcher (right) and Stuart Bithell celebrate winning gold in the Men's Skiff 49er class medal race in Tokyo. Picture by Phil WalterGetty Images

Harborough has been celebrating this morning (Tuesday) after local sailor Dylan Fletcher dramatically struck gold for Great Britain at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

As we reported earlier this monring, Dylan, 33, and his racing partner Stuart Bithell, 34, pipped their German rivals by a whisker to brilliantly snatch gold in one of the most heart-stopping Olympic regatta races ever.

The GB 49er crew stormed over the finishing line inches ahead after the lead repeatedly changed hands in a nerve-shredding showdown at the crack of dawn our time.

Ecstatic Dylan, who attended Market Harborough’s Robert Smyth Academy, said as his stunning victory started to sink in.

Click here to read his comments in our earlier article.

New Zealand's defending champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke were leading the regatta heading into the final double points race.

The British duo had to finish two places ahead of the six-time world champions to finish on top of the medals podium.

And the Kiwis’ third place pushed them into silver as Fletcher and Bithell swept home out in front.

Today elated Dan Cleary, the head of Robert Smyth Academy on Burnmill Road, Market Harborough, told the Harborough Mail: “We are all so proud of Dylan today.

“I watched it live – and this was just pure sporting drama at its very best.

“Mere mortals like me and you are turned into emotional wrecks as we cheer our fantastic heroes like to Dylan home to victory.

“But he just kept a super-cool head, stayed so calm and got the job done.

“It’s just a magnificent achievement,” said Dan, as he got his breath back.

“Staff at Robert Smyth still talk about Dylan coming here and what an amazing student and competitor he was.

“Now this lad from Market Harborough and one of our very own at Robert Smyth has sealed the ultimate victory – a gold medal at the Olympics.

“Absolutely mind-blowing – it doesn’t get any better than this!”

Dan said it was just “phenomenal” to watch Fletcher and Bithell squeeze out the Germans by milliseconds to grab gold at the death.

“It was just incredible – elite sport at its very finest.

“To win gold at the Olympic Games – wow!

“Full marks to Dylan for simply putting himself in the position to go to the Olympics in the GB team and to compete at the highest level in the first place.

“Many of us struggle to understand just what a massive sacrifice these athletes have to make to become so good,” insisted Dan.

“We don’t see all the hard yards they out in day in day out to become this brilliant and hard-edged.

“We don’t see Dylan and his team-mates jumping out of bed at 5am on a freezing, dark, wet January morning and venturing out on to the water in the middle of winter.

“The training they have to put in, the sheer determination, the desire, the will to win, is just incredible.

“We have a first-class sporting ethos and tradition here at Robert Smyth.

“World-class winners like England rugby legend Martin Johnson came here.

“We’ve got so many boys and girls involved in young England set-ups at the moment,” said Dan.

“Robert Smyth and Market Harborough really are both genuine sporting hotbeds of talent.”

The school’s pumped-up principal said they will now be asking Dylan to return to the academy to talk to pupils.

“We’ll be reaching out to him as soon as he’s back on dry land so to speak.

“Dylan is a huge inspiration to all of us,” said Dan.

“How could our kids here not be inspired by his talent, his feats and his Olympic gold?

“They’ll be looking at what he’s achieved and thinking they can do that – no matter which sport they play.

“We have so much pride in what Dylan has achieved today.

“This day will go down in our school’s sporting history as well as Market Harborough’s.”

Equally-thrilled Harborough MP Neil O’Brien told the Mail: “Winning gold at the Olympics is an incredible achievement - and Dylan's story will inspire lots of young people locally.

“From learning to sail at Pitsford Reservoir with Northampton sailing Club to winning gold at the Toyko Olympics, it goes to show what people can achieve with massive determination and intensive practice.”

Cllr Phil King, who leads Harborough District Council, told the Mail today: “Dylan winning gold is a fantastic achievement.

“I am sure that the whole of Market Harborough and all of Harborough is so proud of Dylan today as he’s so dramatically won yet another gold medal for Team GB.

“He won gold by the tiniest of margins but they showed such staggering determination and hunger to get over the line first,” said Cllr King.

“I’d like to say a massive congratulations to Dylan and his crewmate Stuart Bithell.

“They deserve all the praise we can shower on them – and proved to be such an amazing team they were ultimately unbeatable over so many races.

“Dylan is an outstanding inspiration to all of us.

“He has shown just how much you can achieve through brilliant raw talent and hard work – you can go right to the very pinnacle of the sporting world.

“And hopefully he’s got many brilliant victories and medals still to come as he carves out a legendary sporting career.”

Dylan got into sailing at just 11 years old when he joined his best friend for the fun of it on a sailing course.

He joined Northampton Sailing Club after his parents – both graduates of the country’s iconic Royal Ballet School – moved to Market Harborough and he cut his teeth at Pitsford Reservoir.

Brilliantly-talented Dylan quickly started to make a real splash in racing - and by 13 had really caught the bug for winning.

He made waves as a junior racer in the 29er before moving up into the Olympic 49er class - and finished sixth in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

Dylan, a keen photographer and snowboarder, vowed that he had unfinished business at the Olympics.

And five years later in Tokyo today he’s gone five places better and beaten the rest of the world to strike gold.