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Ben Ainslie frustrated by ‘favourite’ tag at Olympics
9:57am Wednesday 25th July 2012 in Sport
THREE-TIMES Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie is frustrated by those expecting him to romp to victory this summer.
The 35-year-old is the undoubted star of Great Britain’s sailing team and gearing up for a fifth successive Games.
Ainslie, pictured, already boasts three gold medals and a silver from previous Olympics and is expected by many to add to that haul on the home waters of Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour.
That level of expectation is epitomised by the bookmakers who make the Lymington -based sailor odds-on favourite to win the Finn class, with some pricing his nearest rivals as far out as 10/1.
“It is absolutely not that clear cut,” Ainslie said. “It is a bit of a frustration for me personally that people may be saying ‘you’re the favourite’ for the Olympics.”
“The standard of the event is really so much higher [than before].
“All of these sailors out there have spent four years of their lives trying to get to a peak performance for the Olympics.
“In the Finn class, there are ten or 12 guys that on their day can go out and be a threat and win races.
“So it is going to be really tough. I am under no illusions.”
Ainslie heads into the Games as reigning world champion, having won the Finn Gold Cup for a record sixth time in May.
He has, though, endured a tumultuous year that saw him suffer a serious back injury and capsize in the medal race of the pre-Games Sail for Gold regatta.
The sticking point of that period was Ainslie’s disqualification from the 2011 World Championships in Australia after a confrontation with a television boat.
“What happened in Perth was a bit of an isolated incident and it was very unfortunate,”
he said. “My experience of the Olympics is that it is very, very unlikely that a situation like that would occur again.
“I can assure you if it did, I would be staying in my own boat this time.”
The Royal Yachting Association went on to clear Ainslie to compete at this summer’s Olympics, where he believes preparation is the best coping mechanism to keeping cool under pressure.
“If you get the preparation right, you can’t do any more than that,”
he said. “You’ve just got to go out on the day and perform. There is no easy way around it.
“There is a lot of pressure on all of us and for me personally the internal desire and expectations easily outweigh the external pressures.
“It is dealing with that and preparation is key to that.”
But while he is preparing to win, Ainslie, pictured above, is not keen to look at the record books.
Victory on home waters would see him equal the four gold medals achieved by Paul Elvstrom between 1948 and 1960, while the silver he picked up in Atlanta would see him eclipse the Dane as the most successful Olympic sailor of all time.
“It is something I don’t think about too much,” Ainslie said. “It comes up a lot and really in sailing we have so many great sailors across all the different classes.
“From my own perspective, I just focus on my own job and trying to do well at this event.
“Whatever happens after this event happens.”