Former Mirror sports news reporter JOHN JACKSON, a veteran of Olympics Games going back 50 years, on the reasons behind his vote for the 2012 Sportsman of the year
Super sailor Ben Ainslie stands out for me as the choice for the SJA Sportsman of the Year simply because he is the first person in his sport to win Olympic medals at five consecutive Games.
Ainslie’s four gold and one silver leave him just one colour away from fellow Brit in a boat, rower Sir Steve Redgrave with his five gold.
His tussles on the water of Weymouth Bay in the very competitive Finn class may have been ignored by those who dismiss sailing as an elitist sport. Due to the need for sea conditions sailing will always be an isolated Olympic event, far removed from the Olympic Village and stadium events, with all the glamour and clamour of athletics, swimming, cycling confined within the Olympic Park.
But Ainslie has proved he is a super sportsman since starting sailing at the age of eight in Restronguet Creek, near Falmouth, Cornwall. Now, 27 years later, he is the most decorated sailor of all time. He has been world champion 10 times since 1993, and European champion nine times. As for civil honours he has moved from MBE to OBE to CBE in 11 years. Is there a knighthood awaiting in the New Year?
Appropriately, at Land’s End in Cornwall on May 19, he was the first person on the British stage of the relay to carry the 2012 Olympic torch, setting it on its 70-day tour of the country. Three months later, he proudly carried the flag for Great Britain into the closing ceremony.
There has been no suggestion that Ainslie’s Olympic aspirations closed down also that star spangled night. It would be a brave person who predicted against him winning a fifth gold in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, so pushing Redgrave into second spot.
One can only hope that Ainslie gets angry in Rio, because nothing makes him more determined to win. He freely admitted that his Weymouth triumph was aided by annoyance at his two main rivals from Denmark and Holland, who he claimed had teamed up after an earlier race to accuse him wrongly of hitting a mark and forcing him to do a penalty turn.
At the 2011 world championships he was in a winning position going into the closing stages of the regatta when he physically threatened a photographer and was disqualified for “gross misconduct”. He felt the wake from the photographer’s boat had prevented him from overtaking a competitor.
There were many splendid one-off triumphs by British competitors at London 2012, but Ben Ainslie comes out on top for his continuing consistency.
- SJA members can still vote for the 2012 British Sportsman, Sportswoman and Team of the Year
- If you’re an SJA member, it takes just minutes to cast your vote online – click here now. Voting closes on Nov 12
- Click here to see some of the other leading contenders for your votes
UPCOMING SJA EVENTS
Thu Dec 6: 2012 SJA British Sports Awards. An Olympic year extravaganza at the Tower of London. Click here for more details, news of members’ discounts and a booking form.