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BEST OF BRITISH – ICON

THE PERFECT STORM Behind the film star looks and the jovial personality lies a hard as nails world champion the likes of which Britain, nor the world, has rarely ever seen, yet Tim Henman is still more famous than he is. Andre Gayle discovers Olympic Sailor Ben Ainslie.

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xactly what does it take for someone to be classed as one of the greatest sportsmen of all time? Skill? Talent? Determination? All useful attributes, to be sure, but even a combination of all three might not bestow historical status upon you – no matter how much of each you might have at your disposal. No, there is a fourth dimension without which you surely will never achieve greatness. Muhammad Ali had it, as do Michael Jordan, Pete Sampras and Lance Armstrong. Without meaning to cast aspersions, the fourth dimension is a near demented quality in your approach to what you do: a mindset so instinctively singular that if it were applied to any other sphere of life some might truly wonder about your sanity. It’s the philosophy that says, as Tiger Woods puts it, ‘when your opponent is on the floor keep your foot on his neck until it’s over.’ Britain has some great sporting stars and with the advent of lottery funding in the UK we now see the benefits of talent that has been given the opportunity to grow and develop without the debilitating financial considerations of the past. But to have a career straddle almost two decades and still stay at the pinnacle your field, winning everything there is to win in that time? Well, that takes something that lottery funding will never find. That ‘something’ is being Ben Ainslie. As a competitive sailor there literally is no comparison. Sat in the Royal Thames Yacht Club in Knightsbridge it becomes obvious on first meeting him that he is too personable a

character to forcibly articulate the real secret of his success. However, anybody prepared to delve into his competitive history will be able to point to it with little if any trouble. On the field of play – and only on the field of play – this man is cutthroat. It’s as simple as that. The skill and dedication he has to his sport has been underwritten with a ruthlessness that only those who go down in history possess. Put it to him directly and Ainslie will only smile sheepishly and tell you, “when I’m racing, I’m racing to try and win.” There was a time when he didn’t win, though. In his first Olympic Games, in Atlanta 1996, Ben won a silver medal at the age of 19. However, in a career that started as far back as 1992 he has clocked nine European gold medals, eleven World titles and three consecutive Olympic titles; twenty-three gold medals, countless other honours and the current holder of every major title available in the sport. ‘Racing to try and win’ somehow just seems to undersell it! The story of his first Olympic gold medal in Sydney, 2000, provides the marker for what was to come. Going into the final medal race of the Laser Class he was competing in, Ainslie was guaranteed a gold medal as long as his main rival, the Brazilian Robert Scheidt, finished outside the top twenty places. So, as the rules allow, Ainslie took part but didn’t necessarily compete in the race. Instead he set about legally preventing Scheidt competing in the race by executing a series of calculated manoeuvres that frustrated the Brazilian so much he racked up too many penalties trying to >

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Profile for Urban Life Magazine

Urban Life - London's premier (free) luxury lifestyle magazine  

Urban Life is a London-based luxury lifestyle magazine, aimed at the professional/affluent Londoner. Features reflect the tastes and aspira...

Urban Life - London's premier (free) luxury lifestyle magazine  

Urban Life is a London-based luxury lifestyle magazine, aimed at the professional/affluent Londoner. Features reflect the tastes and aspira...

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