• London Olympics 2012

Remarkable Ainslie claims historic fourth gold

ESPN staff
August 5, 2012

Ben Ainslie claimed his fourth Olympic gold medal on Sunday in Weymouth to become the greatest Olympic sailor of all-time.

Medal Table

The Brit, needing to beat Denmark's Jonas Hogh-Christensen in the final medal race to claim gold in the Finn class, successfully shepherded his rival for the majority of the race and then burst clear around the final mark - ensuring his fourth successive gold medal, his third in the class.

There was a brief moment of panic, however, as Netherlands' Pieter-Jon Postma looked like finishing second in the medal race and stealing the gold from Ainslie, who was focused on Hogh-Christensen at the back of the field. But a poor turn of the final mark left Postma in fifth, ensuring Ainslie would claim the win as long as he finished ahead of the bereft Hogh-Christensen.

"I learned to sail for fun, I never thought I'd get this far," Ainslie said. "it's been a long road but I've had a huge amount of support. I'm just so glad to have done it. There's a huge amount of pressure on everyone at a home Games, but you just have to deal with that. Once you get racing it disappears.

"It's been a tough week, but this was the time to do it - in front of a home crowd. I want to thank everyone who has ever supported me. The home crowd really makes a difference."

Ainslie never led the Finn standings at any point prior to the final race, having lost to Hogh-Christensen in the opening six races of the competition. But he clawed his way back - gaining motivation after a spat with the Dane, and Postma, on Thursday - and then delivered at the death to elevate his legacy.

"I can't believe it," he added. "This race course is one of hardest I have ever sailed on - to race for an Olympic gold medal on it, I never want to go through anything like this again."

Ainslie, who began his Olympic career with a silver in the Laser class (where he won gold four years later) back in 1996 in Atlanta, refused to rule out an appearance in Brazil in four years' time - but admitted it was unlikely he would continue in the Olympics after this high water-mark for his career.

"You can never say never," he noted. "I'm not going to do a Steve Redgrave [who famously said fans had his permission to 'shoot him' if he ever set foot in a boat again] but I'd be very surprised if you see me in Rio. Winning here, it won't ever get any better."

Prior to Ainslie's medal race, there was real heartbreak for two British sailors - as Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson were denied a gold medal in the Star in agonising circumstances.

Needing to finish inside the top four to guarantee victory in the class, Percy and Simpson looked on course to achieve that aim before a shocking finish cost them everything. They ultimately crossed the line in seventh - meaning the race-winning Swedish team, needing to win by six places to steal gold, clinched victory at the death.

Fredrick Loof and Max Salminen needed to be told by a camera boat that they had actually won - overhauling a 12-point deficit to come through in first. Brazil took bronze.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.