Double Olympic gold medallist Sarah Ayton has announced she is to retire from sailing with immediate effect, abandoning her quest for an historic third Olympic title at the London 2012 Games.
The 30-year-old Ayton, who is married to Olympic bronze medal-winning windsurfer Nick Dempsey, began her 2012 campaign in earnest in April 2010, nine months after giving birth to the couple’s first son Thomas, and has been sailing for Skandia Team GBR in the two-person 470 class with Beijing Olympian Saskia Clark.
Ayton, who claimed Olympic glory in the Yngling class in Athens with Shirley Robertson and Sarah Webb, and again in Beijing with Webb and Pippa Wilson, was striving to become the first British woman to win three consecutive Olympic golds at her home Games in London.
But for Ayton, renowned for her dedication and ‘no compromise’ approach in her previous two medal-winning campaigns, the demands of Olympic classes sailing and motherhood have proved a relentless juggling act which left her “drained and unhappy”.
“To succeed at the highest level as an Olympic athlete you ultimately have to be pretty single-minded, and that’s something that just doesn’t sit happily when you’re a mum as well,” Ayton explained.