IT is somewhat unexpected to hear Anna Burnet admit that she goes into this week’s Nacra 17 World Championships, which begin today in Oman, with relatively low expectations. 

She is, alongside her sailing partner, John Gimson, defending champion and Olympic silver medallist but despite her impressive list of accolades, these World Championships have been prepared for in a decidedly more relaxed manner than usual. 

After five years of intense, exhausting and time-consuming build-up to Tokyo 2020, it is perhaps unsurprising that Burnet has allowed herself to enjoy the aftermath of their silver medal-winning performance at Enoshima Yacht Harbour this summer. 

And so while spending decidedly less time in her boat than normal has led to lower expectations than usual, Burnet admits she has been unable to completely banish her competitive streak. 

“After Tokyo, we knew we needed a bit of a break so we decided if we were going to do anything this side of Christmas, we’d just do some racing,” the 29-year-old says. 

“We’re trying to not put too much pressure on ourselves but having said that, we’re competitive and once we get into the racing, we’ll be racing as hard as we can. 

“We do occasionally say to each other that it’d be pretty cool to defend our title. We’ll say it jokingly but we’re not completely joking.” 

As one of the very top pairs in the world, there is no escaping the pressure that is upon Burnet and Gimson’s shoulders in Oman this week. 

But Burnet, from Argyll and Bute, refuses to be daunted by the fact that defeat for the Brits would be a major scalp for every other boat in the field. 

“We try not to think about the pressure – it’s one of those things you could easily get distracted by and actually, it comes down to who does the details well. If you start thinking you can beat people by just turning up then for sure we’ll get beaten,” she says.  

“The younger teams are always pushing and they’ll all have been training while we were out the boat so it’s going to be really competitive. 

And the conditions in Oman are going to be really difficult too; it’s a light wind venue and a choppy sea state which is quite a leveller.” 

As an Olympic medallist, Burnet’s few months since returning from Tokyo have been hectic, to say the least. 

Much of her time has been spent catching up with family and friends who were unable to travel to Japan due to the pandemic, being forced, instead, to lend their support from home  

So Burnet’s autumn has been filled with reunions, as well as parties and appearances. 

Her one competitive appearance since returning from Tokyo bodes well for this week’s event though, with her and Gimson’s assault on the European championships in Greece resulting in a gold medal. 

The “post-Olympic comedown” is a frequently-used phrase amongst elite athletes, so common is it to feel something of an anticlimax once the event every fibre of their being has been working towards for four, or in the case of Tokyo 2020, five years. 

But Burnet has, she says, been fortunate to have largely escaped such feelings due, in large part, to the fact she almost immediately turned her attention to the next Olympic Games, which are now less than three years away. 

“We’ve definitely had moments of feeing that comedown but we’ve stayed so busy and also knowing that we’re carrying on to Paris has helped because the goal is still there for us,” she says. 

“Three years is going to go so quickly.  

We have already thought about it although we’re trying not to focus too much on it until January. It’s hard not to though when you know you’ve got such a big push over the next few years.” 

Burnet knows that having won an Olympic silver medal, upgrading to gold in 2024 is well within her grasp. 

And having gained a wealth of experience throughout the course of the Tokyo Olympic cycle, she is confident she can use those lessons to ensure she is in a far better position by the time the Paris Games begin. 

“The target is definitely to win gold in Paris,” she says.  

“The more experience you have in these events of getting it wrong and then getting it right is so important. Often it’s a battle of attrition and experience is often the only thing that can help you get through that. 

“So hopefully we’ll be in a good place come Paris.”