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Iain Percy - Sailing
4:19pm Tuesday 24th July 2012 in Sport
He might often be overlooked because of the astonishing achievements of his compatriot Ben Ainslie , but Iain Percy remains one of Britain’s most successful Olympic sailors of all time.
The Southampton -born 36-year-old will this summer aim to win his third gold medal at a Games, when he competes alongside Andrew Simpson, above, in the Star class.
His first title arrived at Sydney 2000, when he dominated the heavyweight dinghy Finn class that Ainslie has now become so well known for controlling.
Percy was just 24 when he won in Australia and, incredibly, had only turned professional two years beforehand.
In 2001, he switched to the technical Star keelboat.
Competing alongside Steve Mitchell, Percy enjoyed instant success in his new class.
The duo won the 2002 world championships, in California, before winning bronze the following two years.
That meant they arrived at Athens 2004 as one of the hot favourites to medal, but it turned out to be a disappointing campaign, as they slumped to a sixth-placed finish.
“I have bad memories of Athens because I let myself down with a bad result and that is something that will always pain me,” Percy, right, has said.
“Since Athens I have realised that that is one of my biggest motivators. Avoiding bad results is a bigger motivator than achieving success.”
In 2007, Percy – who first went sailing when he was four-years-old – joined up with lifelong best friend Simpson. Within their first few months together, they had secured a bronze medal in the world championships, providing some valuable impetus ahead of the Beijing Olympics.
It was there that they produced one of the most dramatic victories of the Games, clinching gold in the dying seconds of the medal race as they overhauled main rivals Sweden.
Few people who watched will forget the emotional scenes of the pair stood arm-in-arm on the podium, with Percy’s eyes shut as he tried to hold back the tears.
The pair added a world championship gold in 2010, with a silver arriving in the same event earlier this year.
The biggest threat to their hopes of successfully defending their Olympic title is likely to come from Brazil’s Star class representatives.
But the pair are expecting plenty of competition from elsewhere too.
“Poland are very strong and the Swedish team is always capable,” explained Sherborne’s Simpson.
“Beating Brazil is one of our main goals but we can’t discount anyone.”