Jo Aleh recalled the moment she broke the hearts of a nation after pipping home favourites Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark to the 470 Sailing gold medal.
The British pair were left in tears after missing out on the gold they so desperately craved.
Aleh, 26, and partner Polly Powrie, who go by the name ‘Team Jolly,’ were tied with the British duo after nine races but edged to victory in a thrilling finale in Weymouth.
A tactical contest saw Mills and Saskia force the New Zealand boat to the right of the course, but the wind then changed direction allowing Aleh and Powrie to cross the line first.
“It feels great to go home with a medal,” said Aleh, who is from Muriwai Beach. “There was a great atmosphere going into the final race against the British girls and we were relieved to see the job through.”
The Kiwi sailors were given a heroes welcome when they came out of the water as their teammates and coaches lifted them up and carried them into the boat park.
”I didn’t think that was possible to lift a 470 with two people in it,” Aleh said. “That was pretty amazing, just knowing all those people were here to see us and help us out.”
Aleh, who won the world title in 2007 and finished seventh at the 2008 Olympics, took an interest in the sport in 1995 after watching the America’s Cup. “I saw it on TV and thought it looked pretty fun,” she said. “I don’t know how I got dinghy sailing mixed up with the America’s Cup, but I guess I was watching the Kiwis just smacking everyone on the world stage. I like the idea of that.”
Aleh’s parents, Shuki and Daniella, met in the IDF before marrying in New Zealand and she will visit Israel shortly for her sister’s batmitzvah.
“It feels great to know that there are even more people behind me and, given my parents’ background, part of my medal belongs to Israel,” she said.
She had her own batmitzvah in Beersheeva in 1998 and saved up for her first racing yacht with the money she received.
Asked if she will be in Rio in four years time, she said: “We can’t give it away now, we’re having too much fun. We have to have a chat about it but we should be in Brazil in some form.”