Sir Ben Ainslie talks tantrums, the pressure of the Olympics and life after sailing.
“THEY’VE made me angry and you don’t want to make me angry,” were the infamous words spoken by Sir Ben Ainslie at last year’s Olympics after being handed a penalty that threatened his chances of gold. He accepted it rather than risk being disqualified and managed to power through against the odds to become the most decorated sailor of all time (only Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Bradley Wiggins have more British gold medals) greeted by thousands of Union-Jack waving fans lining Weymouth’s Nothe peninsula. Sir Ben – an Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week regular – announced his retirement last November – now, his focus is on leading his very own JP Morgan team to bring the America’s Cup to British waters.
I was a bit frustrated by the expectation at the Games. People thought I was definitely going to win. I knew it was going to be tough.
The 2012 Olympics were definitely my hardest. Training at home meant there was a lot of pressure and with that comes distractions. I couldn’t just get on with my training in the same way as if I was competing somewhere else.
The penalty I was given really fired me up. It ended up having a positive impact because until that point I was struggling. I wasn’t sailing very well and I knew unless things changed, I probably wasn’t going to win and that was what I was there for.
I didn’t get a chance to celebrate afterwards. Straight after the Olympics I went to San Francisco, which is why it’s so nice for me to come back home.
My back played a big role in my decision to retire. Sailing in the boat that I had been for the past few Olympics was tough physically. Even after an operation it was a real struggle, so continuing would have been difficult.
I don’t know what my role in the next Olympics will be, but I will do whatever I can to help the team, whether that’s in a mentoring role or coaching. Rio will be difficult. Rio Harbour, where the race is scheduled, is not an easy place so there will be many challenges.
I don’t know about the future. Right now I’m focusing on the America’s Cup. Along with winning gold, it was always the big goal I wanted to achieve, so to be able to bring the trophy back to British waters with my own team would be great. Interview by Naomi Mdudu