Four-time gold medallist Ben Ainslie calls time on Olympic career

 

Four-time Olympic sailing gold medallist Ben Ainslie has announced he will not compete at Rio 2016.

Ainslie, 35, has decided to call time on his glittering Olympic career to focus on his America's Cup campaign.

Ainslie won the Finn class at London 2012 - his fourth gold medal in his fifth Games - but will not defend that title in Rio.

"It fills me with both relief and sadness to write these words but I can now officially confirm that I have donned my Team GB tracksuit for the last time," Ainslie told the Daily Telegraph.

"No more Olympic villages. No more opening or closing ceremonies. After almost 20 years entirely dedicated to the pursuit of gold, taking in five Olympic campaigns, I have decided I will not attempt a sixth at Rio de Janeiro in 2016."

Ainslie won silver at his first Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 in the Laser class and took Laser gold in Sydney four years later. He then moved to the Finn class taking gold in Athens, Beijing and London.

Ainslie did not announce his Olympic retirement immediately after winning in Weymouth. Instead he waited for the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) conference in Dublin to find out which classes would be on the Olympic programme for Rio.

He admits that had the Star two-handed dinghy been reinstated he might have considered "giving that a go" but it was not.

"Because of the wear and tear of a lifetime spent sailing, particularly on my back, which was a real issue this summer, it was always going to be an uphill struggle to do the Finn again in Brazil," he said.

Ainslie will now concentrate on an America's Cup World Series campaign with JP Morgan BAR.

"I feel increasingly confident that we can one day challenge for the America's Cup proper. Not at next year's event in San Francisco - that will be too soon - but perhaps the one after that."

Royal Yachting Association performance director John Derbyshire paid tribute to Ainslie.

"The word 'legend' is often over-used in sport, but Ben really is one - a determined yet unassuming, modest, often under-recognised legend in this nation's sporting history.

"He has been a talismanic figure in the RYA's Olympic programme for over 16 years, through his successes inspiring new waves of sailors to get involved in the sport, and passing on his tireless work ethic and campaign skills to other young talents, who will look to follow in his footsteps and take on the challenge of keeping GBR a leading light in Olympic sailing in the years to come.

"Ben has always made it clear that his two career goals have been to win Olympic gold, and to win the America's Cup. With four Olympic golds and a silver across five Games, and now the most successful Olympic sailor of all time, he has nothing left to prove in Olympic terms and there can be no question that he's more than achieved his first goal.

"It's therefore entirely understandable that he should now want to turn his attentions to the second, and hopefully lead a British team to win the oldest trophy in sport for the very first time."

RYA Olympic manager Stephen Park said: "From our side, the door is always open for Ben to return if he feels that gold in Rio is a viable prospect, but we wish him every success with JPMorgan Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) and his uncompromising focus on an America's Cup-winning campaign.

"I know we will continue to keep in close contact with Ben, who is keen to help and support the Olympic programme and talented youngsters coming through in whatever way he can."

PA

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