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Ben Ainslie retires from Olympic sailing

But is one of 12 contenders for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year

Tuesday November 27th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Ben Ainslie has announced his retirement from Olympic sailing. Following an Olympic career spanning 16 years, at London 2012 Ainslie cemented his place in sporting history by securing his fourth consecutive gold medal, entering him into the history books as the most successful Olympic sailor of all time.

For Ainslie the decision was not an easy one: “When I look back there are so many special memories; from that first medal in Atlanta 16 years ago to carrying the flag at the closing ceremony in London 2012. London was an incredibly special Olympics, competing on home waters and in front of a home crowd, I don’t think anything will be able to top that experience. But you have to move forwards and it is time to move onto the next challenge in my career.”

Ainslie has taken the bold move to setup a team to challenge for the 35th America’s Cup. This announcement marks the start of a new chapter in his career as he now shifts his focus to winning the America’s Cup and bringing the oldest trophy in sport back to Britain. Conceived by the British in 1851, the America’s Cup is the only international sporting trophy Great Britain has never won.

The team has taken the first steps on this road with J.P.Morgan who is title sponsor to the Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) AC45 team, who are competing in the America’s Cup World Series 2012-13. The team has shown great promise finishing second at the last ACWS event in October.

“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.”

“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.”

John Derbyshire, Royal Yachting Association Performance Director, commented:
 “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 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.”

The next ten months will see Ainslie train and compete with the America’s Cup defenders Oracle Team USA in San Francisco, where he will gain invaluable experience helming one of two AC72s in the build up to the 34th America’s Cup in September 2013.

Last night Ainslie was also revealed as one of the 12 contenders for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2012. However from here he now needs the public's support by voting for him - this takes place in a public phone vote on Sunday 16 December.

No sailor has ever received the prestigious BBC accolade, awarded annually since 1954.

After such a top year for British sportsmen and women, the BBC felt it was necessary to extend their Sports Personality of the Year shortlist of 10 by two, making it an unprecedented round dozen.

Last year Mark Cavendish took the top prize, but this year the sprint cyclist didn’t make the cut after a number of others blew away the competition at this year’s London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Cyclists Bradley Wiggins and Sir Chris Hoy, tennis star Andy Murray, and athletes Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah are candidates in the 12-strong list. Rower Katherine Grainger, golfer Rory McIlroy, boxer Nicola Adams are other hopefuls which Ainslie will be up against. Paralympians Sarah Storey, Ellie Simmonds and David Weir also make the list for the award on 16 December.

The result, as selected by a newly revamped panel, will be announced on 16 December at London’s ExCel Arena, which was one of the London 2012 venues.


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