This year’s Alumni Award for Achievement in Sport has been given to Hannah Mills OBE (DipHE 2012) in recognition of her incredible career in sailing and sustainability.
At Tokyo 2020, Hannah became the most successful female sailor in Olympic history, after she won gold with Eilidh McIntyre in the women’s 470 event. Hannah also sailed to a gold medal in Rio in 2016 and a silver medal at the London 2012 games, alongside her then sailing partner Saskia Clark.
Cardiff-born Hannah started sailing at age eight, while on holiday in Cornwall with her family. She went on to study Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bristol, training in her spare time to prepare for the London 2012 Olympic games.
“I loved my time at Bristol,” said Hannah, “both in terms of the city and university life. I particularly loved my second year. I lived in a house with a brilliant group of people and we had so much fun.
“Going to university is such a milestone in life. For me it was the first time living away from my parents and being ‘out in the world’. It gave me independence and confidence and showed me how much I should appreciate my parents!
“It feels amazing to receive this award. It’s a huge honour as I know how many incredibly talented sports people the University has helped in their careers.”
Hannah is now an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Sustainability Ambassador and in 2019 she launched the Big Plastic Pledge, a global campaign aimed at eradicating plastic pollution in sport. In 2021 she was also chosen to be a European Climate Pact Ambassador.
Speaking about her motivations for launching the Big Plastic Pledge, Hannah said: “Sailing has taken me all over the world and for almost two decades I have noticed plastic in the oceans, mainly when it gets stuck under our boat and stops us dead in our tracks. But it didn’t resonate with me how bad the problem was getting until the Rio 2016 Olympic cycle.
“I witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of plastic pollution on our oceans and planet. Every beach, marina and coastal area we visited during that four-year period was affected and damaged beyond belief.
“So much of it was single use plastic. It was something I couldn’t ignore anymore, I had to act. And so, over the past few years I have set about, along with my teammate Eilidh Mcintyre, trying to reduce the single use plastic from our Olympic campaign.”
To find out more about Hannah’s environmental campaign head to bigplasticpledge.com