Ainslie confident he can see off rivals in bid for Games greatness

The three-times Olympic gold medallist predicts a tough battle for Britain's solitary Finn Class berth
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The Independent Online

Judging by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) World Rankings Ben Ainslie, three times an Olympic gold medallist, is not one of the favourites to qualify for Great Britain's one Finn Class spot in the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Up until the end of 2010 he had not been in a heavyweight Finn boat for almost two years yet he will be competing against three sailors in the top 10 in the world: Edward Wright (3), Giles Scott (5) and Mark Andrews (9). But Britain's most successful Olympic sailor, who has won gold in Finn Class in the previous three Olympics and silver in his first, at just 19, remains confident of his chances. "I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think I had a good chance to qualify," said Ainslie. "I'm still a long way off my best, where I need to be to compete. This year it's going to be tough but I'm optimistic about it."

In fact, the 33-year-old jumped straight back into a singlehanded Finn boat and won the final ISAF World Series regatta of 2010 in Melbourne, beating current world champion Wright and Scott in the process.

The reason for his absence from the class he has been so successful in is that he has been captaining a British crew in an attempt to win the America's Cup. This year he will be out on the water by himself again in training to qualify for London 2012, and if he were to go all the way it would propel him alongside Chris Hoy's current position as Britain's second most successful Olympic athlete, after Sir Steve Redgrave – something he is very aware of.

"It would be a big deal for me personally to win a fourth gold in terms of putting me up there in the records," he said. "Generally in any Olympics there are one or two people who stand out. I certainly think I can be one of those people, that's what I'm working towards, but I'm sure we'll have some great success stories from the team as a whole."

Given the physicality of the Finn Class – Ainslie has had to go from his natural bodyweight of 85kg to 95kg to prepare – this could be his last chance to achieve that goal.

Ainslie, who will be 35 when the competition begins, said: "I think with the physicality of the Finn Class this would probably be my last Olympics competing in it. It's hard to say though, I always think back to Steve Redgrave who retired in 1996 and then came back – you can never say never."

Regardless of whether it is or not, Ainslie is relishing the chance to sail in the Olympics in front of a home crowd. "From a personal point of view it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, all of us training are desperate to be there to compete on home waters," he added. "It'll be an amazing experience."



The Independent met Ben Ainslie at The Tullett Prebon London International Boat Show at ExCeL Docklands. It runs until 16 January. For ticket information visit www.londonboatshow.com

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