The Olympic dream has come true for Market Harborough’s Dylan Fletcher.
Fletcher and Stuart Bithell snatched sailing gold by just centimetres in one of the most dramatic Olympic regatta races of all time.
The British 49er crew held off their German rivals by just fractions in Tokyo, the lead continually changing hands in a drag race to the finish line.
New Zealand’s defending champions Peter Burling and Blair Tuke were leading the regatta heading into the final double points race.
A complex formula of results meant the British crew had to finish two places ahead of the six-time world champions to win, with the Kiwis’ third place meaning they settled for silver as Team GB won gold.
And, for Fletcher, who attended Robert Smyth Academy, it was the realisation of his dream.
“I dreamt this would happen,” the 33-year-old said.
“It was last week, a few days before racing. I was like, ‘don’t engage, don’t tell anyone that’, but it was amazing to feel that dream come true. The last race wasn’t quite that close in my dream.
“I think it’s been super close all week in racing and today showed off what it has been like. It was an intense race but it’s mind-blowing to be sat here now as Olympic champions.
“I thought we had it to be honest but I knew it was super touch and go.
“The other guys had right of way over us so we had to be careful to not get a penalty and time everything just right.
“But Stu did an incredible job of making the boat go fast and we just nicked it at the end.”
Alongside Alain Sign, Fletcher finished sixth in the overall Rio 49er standings while Bithell actually missed out on selection in favour of his current Olympic gold medal partner.
“Dreams come true kids. I’ve certainly never seen a race this close in the Olympics, not in the 49er class," said 34-year-old Bithell, who is from Rochdale
“Dylan talks about it being a long road since Rio but for me it’s been nine years.
“I missed out last cycle to Dylan so it’s been a long part of my career just really chipping away and working hard. This is my last Olympics, almost certainly.
“As you can imagine it’s so nice to come away with the gold, it’s been the dream since when I was a little boy.”