Olympic pressure was huge for Ainslie says coach
BEN Ainslie's coach David Howlett insists thoughts of the four-time Olympic champion competing at Rio 2016 are just that after revealing how he almost crippled under the weight of expectation at London 2012, writes Ryan Bangs of Sportsbeat.
Ainslie, who learned to sail at Falmouth, became the greatest Olympic sailor of all time on Weymouth's waters this summer, claiming his third title in the Finn, fourth overall after Laser gold at Sydney 200 and fifth medal after silver at Atlanta 1996.
It was far from a given though with Dane Jonas Hogh-Christensen threatening to ruin Ainslie's homecoming, leading the regatta after all ten ranking races, however the 35-year-old Brit turned the tide in the medal race.
Now Howlett has revealed how, shortly after he won a sixth Finn Gold Cup in Falmouth little over two months before London 2012, public expectation was raised so high that Ainslie nearly couldn't cope.
And, with reports suggesting Ainslie is line to bid for a fifth Olympic title at 2016 after initially intimating he wouldn't, the man in the know Howlett admits the decision is out there but not yet settled.
"When Ben won the worlds down in Falmouth there was about 30 press waiting for him and we had never seen that before in sailing," said Howlett.
"From that moment on his life was never the same which was in many ways the beginning of all the troubles for Ben to win the gold because he was so fatigued and drained by it all.
"The future is in the think tank but don't rule anything out. We think it will be light winds in Rio and that makes it harder for Ben because the lighter people will be doing well and some can't lose weight. But we will have to see what happens.
"We had to go into it with the mentality that it was just another one because if we started to think about what it meant then we were in danger of letting it all get to us.
"We tried to get around that as best we could and we did it but it was probably even more than we ever imagined."
Ainslie also had to deal with the complications of back injury in the build up to London 2012 – the 35-year-old going under the knife to fix the problem in January.
And Howlett – who was speaking at the UK Coaching Awards, supported by Gillette – insists that made Ainslie's achievement in Weymouth all the more remarkable.
"Because Ben is a lot smaller than the other guys and because he had a back operation in January and that meant he couldn't get back in the gym to lift his heavy weights," added Howlett.
"He had a good start compared to those in Athens and China. He got off to a reasonably good start but then we had two days of strong winds with the beat against the tide and that was hard."
Gillette's support of the UK Coaching Awards follows its partnership with sports coach UK earlier this year as part of the 'Great Starts' campaign, introduced to celebrate coaches and inspire the next generation by awarding coaching grants