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Ainslie awe-struck by accolade

December 29, 2012 00:18 am

Ben Ainslie has labelled it an "incredible honour" to receive a knighthood in the New Year Honours for services to sailing.

The knighthood caps an incredible year in which he retired from Olympic competition after winning his fourth gold in the waters around Weymouth and Portland before switching his attention to British success at the America's Cup.

Ainslie said: "This is an incredible honour. 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."

Either side of winning his gold medal, Ainslie was the first person to carry the Olympic torch in the UK and carried the Union Flag at the closing ceremony of the Games.

His sensational Olympic career began with a silver medal in Atlanta in 1996 in the laser class.

Four years later, in Sydney, it was gold for Ainslie and he went in search of a fresh challenge, increasing in bulk by 15 kilograms to reach the optimal weight for a Finn class sailor. The switch paid off in 2004 as Ainslie won a second Olympic title, one he successfully defended four years later despite falling ill in the weeks leading up to the Beijing Games.

The perception was he would deliver a certain gold in London, but first he had to battle the elements and rivals all determined to stop him.

An epic Finn competition turned into a duel between Ainslie and Jonas Hogh-Christensen. The Dane beat Ainslie in the first six races, but in one teamed up with Dutchman Pieter-Jan Postma, forcing the Briton to take a penalty.

The irrepressible Ainslie responded by coming from behind to successfully defend his title for a third time and claim a fourth Olympic gold.

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