Ask anyone who Britain’s best gold medal hope is this summer and there is a good chance the response will be “Ben Ainslie ”.
The three-time Olympic champion sailor has ruled the world’s waters for over a decade now – and shows no signs of loosening his commanding stranglehold at London 2012.
Lymington -based Ainslie’s list of achievements is now so vast and awe-inspiring that he has established himself as a household name in a sport that boasts
little in the way of a major public profile.
Such is the 35-year-old’s superstar status – he is the most successful British sailor of all time – that he was even given the honour of running the first leg of the Olympic torch relay.
Ainslie will be looking for his third successive gold medal in the Finn class when he takes to the waters in Weymouth.
By now, he is a veteran of the Games, having made his Olympic debut at Atlanta 1996, when he was just 19-years-old.
Competing in the Laser class then, he won a silver medal, with Brazilian great Robert Scheidt the only man who could beat him.
Four years later, though, Ainslie turned the tables and beat his South American rival to gold in Sydney.
By the time Athens 2004 rolled round, Ainslie had moved up to the heavyweight dinghy Finn class.
It is there that the Hampshire -based sailor is at his brilliant best.
He secured gold in Greece and repeated the feat in Beijing four years ago to surpass Rodney Pattison’s previous British Olympic sailing record haul of
two gold medals and a silver.
Added to that is six Finn world titles and wins at every major competition in the class for the three-time World Sailor of the Year.
The only sailor that has beaten Ainslie in competition in the last 12 months is fellow Brit Giles Scott, and he isn’t competing in the Games.
It is no surprise, therefore, that expectations are phenomenally high for Ainslie, especially going into a home Olympics .
But he insists that what is almost boarding on a demand to win gold is no issue for him.
“The external pressure is always there, and this time it’s bigger than ever, but the main pressure is the internal pressure than any competitor has,” he said.
“It’s the desire to be successful and make the most of all the years of hard work.
“Nothing but gold will do. That’s the goal – to try to win all the time, and it would be disappointing not to make that.
“But all you can do is prepare as best you can, give everything, and at the end of the day the result is the result.
“You can’t worry about it too much – you just have to do the best job possible.”
Given Ainslie’s track record, there is little doubt he will do just that.