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London 2012: Record will 'never sink in' for Ainslie
7:00am Monday 6th August 2012 in London Olympics 2012 - Latest News
LYMINGTON’S Ben Ainslie is the most successful Olympic sailor of all time after recording an extraordinary fourth - and potentially last - gold medal on home waters.
The 35-year-old replaces Denmark’s legendary Paul Elvstrom as the Games’ most decorated sailor, having overcome the eight-time Olympian’s countryman Jonas Hogh-Christensen in the Finn class.
Leading all week, the Dane only lost his place at the top of the standings after an enthralling medal race that took place in front of thousands of supporters draped in Union flags on the Weymouth coast.
Ainslie pushed Hogh-Christensen to the back of the 10-boat fleet and then saw his only other potential challenger, Dutchman Pieter-Jan Postma, fall back from a threatening position after a penalty turn, ensuring the Brit a record-breaking gold.
“I don’t think that will ever sink in,” Ainslie said of the record, which includes four golds and a silver from five Games.
“It is an amazing thing, but Paul Elvstrom and what he did all those years ago really revolutionised sailing. It was an amazing feat.
“Today was always going to be hard. It was all the whole way through.
“That race was certainly one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life but, thankfully, I came through.
“Sometimes it comes down to the crunch and you have to make it count.
“I have been lucky in my career that when it has really counted I’ve done that.
“When I look back, there are so many times when it could have gone the other way. I am very grateful to come through this.”
Ainslie came into the Games with the expectations of a host nation on his shoulders.
Some bookmakers priced his nearest rivals as far out as 10/1 and others even labelled him - perhaps in jest - Britain's greatest sailor since Lord Nelson.
“I didn’t rescue the nation from the depths of Napoleon Bonaparte, but you do the best you can do in your style of racing,” Ainslie said.
“It is always hard when people say you are a dead cert, that you’re expected to win.
“I knew that wasn’t the case and I tried telling everyone, but no-one seemed to listen to me.
“Then, of course, when I wasn’t doing that well then the heat comes on because the expectation is that you will do well.”
For Ainslie, it seems London 2012 may also prove to be his Olympic swan song.
“The America’s Cup is the next goal,” he said. “I have a new team, BAR (Ben Ainslie Racing), and I am also sailing with Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup next year.
“Rio is way too far ahead to think about.”