Ben Ainslie: Four golds, a knighthood – now the America's Cup
Ben Ainslie, knighted in the Queen's New Year Honours, is now officially Britain's latest great mariner.
After coming under pressure for his place in team GB – not to mention the altercation with a photographers' boat at January's World Championships in Western Australia which put doubt over his Olympic participation – Ainslie delivered.
He said of his knighthood last night: "When I set out Olympic sailing twenty years ago, I never would have dreamt this would happen. I couldn't have achieved this honour without the support of all the people who have helped me throughout my career and so I hope they can also take some pride in this moment."
The Cornishman carried the Olympic torch in his home county and carried the Union Flag for the host nation at the closing ceremony for a glorious Games in London. The 35-year-old retired from Olympic competition after winning his fourth gold in the waters around Portland and is now focused on leading a British boat to victory in the America's Cup.
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His was a sensational Olympic career which began with a silver medal in Atlanta in 1996 in the laser class. Four years later, in Sydney, it was gold for Ainslie as he went in search of a fresh challenge, increasing in bulk by 15 kilograms to reach optimal weight for a Finn class sailor.
He won gold again in Athens in 2004 and successfully defended his title four years later despite falling ill in the weeks leading up to the Beijing Games.
At London 2012 Ainslie came from behind to claim a fourth gold. The America's Cup is his next target. Few would bet against him.