More medals on their way home

 Winning two gold medals is one thing, coming back from the dead in the way that he has this week is spectacular and confirms Ainslie’s reputation as one of the world’s greatest sailors. Few, even Ainslie himself thought that he could pull back gold after such a disastrous start.

“I can’t quite believe it, to come back and win gold after all the things that have happened this week,” he said shortly after stepping ashore.

“After the first race of the first day I was pretty devastated. There were two ways it could go, I could stay depressed and not move on, or turn things around, so I’m really pleased with myself that I was able to dig deep and get back.”

Confirmation, if any were needed, that this had been the greatest comeback of his career so far.

Big Ben went out today with a simple task in mind, to win his second Gold medal. Compared to the task that faced him at the beginning of the week sealing the victory was easy, to all that is except him.

“Heading out today was pretty tough as everyone had me down as a dead cert but I knew that 14 points can sometimes not be that much, especially when the wind is as light as it was,” he said. “I was actually pretty tense and just didn’t want to make a mistake.”

But while the world admires Ainslie’s ability to move into a boat as technically complex as the Finn, he’s quick to point out how important his coach David Howlett, himself and ex-Finn sailor, has been to his success.

“He’s been instrumental in it [gold medal] and it’s been pretty tough for him coaching both the Finns and the Stars and it has taken a lot out of him. He’s not had that many days off and he’s getting on a bit,” he joked. “He’s just a great coach and a very calming influence and very good technically.

“You don’t particularly need someone who can tell you which way you should be going, you should be able to work that out for yourself, what you do need is a mate who gets you in the right mind frame.”

So with three medals around his neck and a new job to go to at Team New Zealand, it’ll be interesting to see what his job title becomes once he starts work with the boys in black. All the more interesting given Dean Barker’s 13th overall in the same class this week. The two are good friends but ultimately only one person gets to hold the wheel.

But what of the future beyond that, would Ainslie like to be competing at the 2008 Olympics?

“I’d love to be, but we’ll have to see what happens over the next three years with the America’s Cup, but Beijing is possible.”

Meanwhile, fellow team mates Nick Rogers and Jo Glanfield were facing a tougher battle to win gold in the 470 class. Having led the class all week, the American team of Paul Foerster and Kevin Burnham had overtaken the Brits on the penultimate day with a lead of just 3 points. The battle promised to be the race of the day. Sadly for spectators it wasn’t.

With four minutes to go to the start, the British team were split away from the rest of the pack, a sitting target for the Americans who took little time in getting on top of the Brits and match racing them from the start. Had this been America’s Cup racing, the spectacle of seeing two boats fight for the upper hand, irrespective of the time to go to the start, would have been a treat to watch.

But as boat the boats crossed the line 30 seconds after the gun, it was clear that the opportunity for Rogers and Glanfield to squeeze two other competitors between them and the Americans to gain the gold was all but gone.

“We knew that their best opportunity was to take us out of the race,” said Glanfield. “We’d set up time and distance from the starboard end so we knew how to approach the line. It all went a bit wrong for us because once we’d gone down into that position the wind swung left by about three knots and this halved our boat speed. We were hard pushed to make the line and he came down on top of us when we were too far from the line.”

“After the start that was the end of it really,” said Rogers. “It was unfortunate and a mistake on our part.”

But a medal is a medal and even as they described their mistakes the beams on their faces said it all. At last they had won an Olympic medal that many believe they so justly deserve.

“Nick and I have had a fantastic season this year, we’ve won a medal at every event,” said Glanfield. “We are over the moon.”

“It’s a culmination of seven years work and we’re really proud,” said Rogers.

On the other side of the fence, their opponents, Paul Foerster and Kevin Burnham were in no mood for anything other than a Gold today. Both have two silvers from the 1992 Olympics and Foerster has another from the 2000 Games. Missing the Gold today was simply not an option in their minds.

“It was tense the whole race that’s for sure,” said Foerster. “I’d been in that situation before in the 1992 Olympics when the Spanish guy was on top of me and we got by him and we were really close to getting a gold medal but they got back. Today we knew that if we let them by anything could happen.”

But they didn’t and nothing did.

Elsewhere on the Saronic Gulf the Tornados and Stars were out for the first time while the boards got stuck into their series and the women’s 470 class had their last race.

I’m afraid you’ll have to check out the results button on the home page to find out who did what as I’m off to find my glad rags for the medals ceremony.