The 35 year-old put the millions watching on television, and the thousands camped out on the Nothe peninsula in Weymouth, through the wringer as his gold medal bid went down to the wire. With Ainslie needing to beat the Danish sailor Jonas Hogh-Christensen to have any chance of taking gold, all eyes were on their duel. But as Ainslie kept him at bay at the back of the fleet, Dutchman Pieter-Jan Postma, the only other sailor mathematically capable of depriving Ainslie of gold, began to move through the gears.
At one stage on the final downwind leg Postma was in second place, with Ainslie ninth, which would have meant silver for the Briton. But the Dutchman lost ground around the final mark and finished fifth, meaning Ainslie merely had to lead Hogh-Christensen home to etch his name into the record books. As he crossed the finish line, a massive roar erupted from the mainland. Ainslie sailed over to them holding a Union flag in his hands before lighting two flares and saluting them.
“It has been a long road,” he said. “It’s times like this you’re meant to say something clever but I can’t. A huge thanks to everyone who supported me along the way.” Asked if he would continue on to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 Ainslie joked that he was not about to repeat Sir Steve Redgrave’s memorable line about shooting him if he ever stepped near a boat again. “Never say never,” he said. “But I don’t think my body could take it. You will never be able to top winning gold on home waters.”
Article originally published in The Guardian