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Sports Personality 10: Ben Ainslie

Ben Ainslie

Sports Personality of the Year
Venue: Liverpool Echo Arena Date: Sunday, 14 December Time: 1900 GMT Coverage: Live on BBC One, BBC Radio 5 Live & BBC Sport website.

We will be dedicating a day to one of the top 10 contenders up until Friday 12 December (in alphabetical order). Today it's the turn of Ben Ainslie.

Ben Ainslie has been raising the profile of British sailing for over a decade with consistent medal-winning winning performances.

His notable successes, which began with silver in Atlanta 1996, have inspired fellow sailors in the country to aspire to and eventually match his efforts.

This year Ainslie, 31, won his third Olympic gold and fourth medal when he won Finn class in Beijing.

The European and world champion was named 2008 World Sailor of the Year.

Shirley Roberston
By Shirley Robertson
Two-time Olympic sailing gold medallist

Shirley Robertson reported on her fellow sailor winning his fourth Olympic medal and third gold this summer.

Here, the two-time Olympic champion and BBC sailing presenter explains why she thinks Ainslie should be this year's BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

The one important aspect people should know about Ben is that he's very modest about his achievements. That's very endearing because it's easy to be arrogant for someone in his position.

However, he's a different animal on the water - very competitive and very fiery. In the early days, there was a lot of shouting, swearing and banging his deck. As his career progressed, he's managed to harness that to give him the edge over his rivals.

Everybody in the sailing world looks up to him. I'm amazed at how professional he is and the fact he's virtually unbeatable.

Even though he took a couple of years out doing the America's Cup, Ben came back to racing and won everything. That's a bit special and there's no way I could do that. It would take me ages to get the feel of the boat again.


When he's out on the race course, Ben has this uncanny sixth sense. He can guess the wind and the conditions like no-one else.

We knew about his talents in the early 1990s, but a few were surprised when at the age of 19 and at his first Olympics in Atlanta 1996, he won silver in the Laser class. Since then, I can't remember a time when Ben's been beaten.

Funding has helped British sailing since 1998, but when Ben started out there wasn't any lottery aid.

His father Roddy, who was a renowned sailor, sold the family home to give Ben the chance to compete in races around the world. Roddy was very astute and saw something special in Ben.

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Ainslie claims Olympic gold

He's particularly good friends with Iain Percy, who won gold in the Star class in Beijing. I'd never seen him as happy as when Iain won his medal. Ben came into the commentary box and started crying - he was more emotional about his friend's success than his own.

All round, Ben's a great person and a very, very special talent. In the sailing world, he's now one of the three best competitors of all time on the medal count, behind Dane Paul Elvstrom and Valentin Mankin. In time, I think he'll be at the top of the tree.

This year, Olympic president Jacques Rogge said that Ben's achievements should be comparable to sprinter Usain Bolt's or Chris Hoy's. It's a shame that in sailing you can only win one medal at one Games. If he could compete in more classes then I'm certain he would come away with more medals.

He should win Sports Personality of the Year, but I guess I'm a bit biased. His skills on the water are unquestionable.

But he has something extra the sailing world has never seen - the ability to always perform and to always win. If Ben had picked another sport then I'm sure he still would have become a champion.

Shirley Robertson was speaking to BBC Sport's Saj Chowdhury

Stories from Ainslie's year:

Sun 14 Dec, 1900 GMT,
BBC One & BBC Radio 5 Live.

see also
Sports Personality 10: Rebecca Adlington
01 Dec 08 |  Sports Personality
Sports Personality 10: Ben Ainslie
01 Dec 08 |  Sports Personality
Sports Personality 10: Joe Calzaghe
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Sports Personality 10: Nicole Cooke
01 Dec 08 |  Sports Personality
Sports Personality 10: Lewis Hamilton
01 Dec 08 |  Sports Personality
Sports Personality 10: Chris Hoy
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Sports Personality 10: Andy Murray
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Sports Personality 10: Christine Ohuruogu
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Sports Personality 10: Rebecca Romero
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Sports Personality 10: Bradley Wiggins
01 Dec 08 |  Sports Personality