Ben Ainslie: Four-time gold medal winner retires from Olympic sailing

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter
Ainslie announces Olympic retirement

British sailor Ben Ainslie will not bid for a fifth Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Rio Games and will instead focus on his Americas Cup campaign.

Ainslie, 35, admits it would have been "difficult to top" the feeling of winning at his home Olympics and is keen to move on with new challenges.

"It was a tough decision," Ainslie told BBC Sport.

"I've had a fantastic Olympic career but I want to make it clear that the focus is now on the Americas Cup."

Ainslie won a silver medal at Atlanta 1996, with golds in Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London. He has won more medals than any other sailor, ahead of Denmark's Paul Elvstrom, who has four golds.

He is fourth in Britain's all-time individual medallist's list, behind Sir Chris Hoy (cycling; six gold, one silver), Sir Steve Redgrave (rowing; five gold, one bronze) and Bradley Wiggins (cycling; four gold, one silver, two bronze).

Fourth sailing gold for Ainslie

Ainslie added: "I considered all of the factors - my fitness and the issues with my back,external-link the venue for the next Olympics and the type of boats, but what it really came down to was this opportunity with the Americas Cup."

The sailor envisages skippering his Ben Ainslie Racingexternal-link AC45 catamaran to glory in the historic competition will be one of the "biggest tests" of his career.

"It's always been a dream of mine since I was a kid to be part of a winning Americas Cup team and ultimately I want to try and bring it back to the UK where it all started in 1851."

Ainslie, who won his first Games medal - a silver in the Laser fleet - at Atlanta 1996, says he may have extended his Olympic career into a twentieth year had the International Sailing Federation [ISAF]external-link reversed their decision to axe the Star class from Rio 2016.

"There was a possibility that it may have been reinstated, but that didn't happen," reflected the four-time World Sailor of the Year Award winner.

"There would have been no guarantees I would have made it to the Olympics going up against 2008 gold medallists Iain [Percy] and Andrew [Simpson], but certainly it was an option to go into that class."

Ainslie ranked his success in London as his greatest personal Olympic moment, but that attaining a first gold at the Sydney 2000 Games was a close second.

"It meant a huge amount to me to reverse the silver medal from 1996 and it gave me a huge amount of confidence that I could go on and achieve more," stated Ainslie who switched from the Laser to the Finn dinghy for Athens 2004.

"I am proud of what I achieved [in the Olympics] but I think this decision [to retire from dinghy sailing] really helps to make it clear what the goal is and the intensions are.

"Hopefully now we can go ahead and get the support to make that [Americas Cup success] happen."

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