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Ben Ainslie labelled a ‘legend’ after announcing Olympic retirement

27th November 2012

• ‘He has nothing left to prove in Olympic terms,’ says RYA
• Ainslie to focus on challenging for the America’s Cup

The Royal Yachting Association racing manager and performance director, John Derbyshire, has described Ben Ainslie as a “legend” and said he was an inspiration to younger generations after the five time Olympic sailor and four times gold medallist announced his retirement from Olympic sailing on Monday to focus on challenging for the America’s Cup.

“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.”

The America’s Cup is the only international sporting trophy that Great Britain has never won and Ainslie, despite finding it difficult to tear himself away from Olympic sailing, is optimistic about the challenge that lies in store for him.

“Stepping away from the Olympics was not an easy decision to make and I wanted to take some time after London to think about the future and what the next challenge would be. I’ve had an amazing Olympic sailing career and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the countless number of people who have been involved in my sailing career to date. Their support enabled me to achieve my dreams and I could not have done it without them.

” [But] The America’s Cup has always been a goal for me. With the new format of the America’s Cup World Series and the increased commericalistaion of the event, I feel confident that we can continue to build towards creating a commercially viable team, with the ultimate goal of challenging for the 35th America’s Cup.”

The RYA Olympic manager, Stephen Park, said that he would never rule out a return for Ainslie to the Games and the sport that he has been so successful in: “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 J.P. Morgan Ben Ainslie Racing 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.”

On Monday, Ainslie was named on the shortlist for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, alongside Nicola Adams, Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy, Andy Murray, Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, Katherine Grainger, Rory McIlroy, Sarah Storey, Ellie Simmonds and David Weir.


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