With one silver medal from Atlanta in 1996 and a gold medal from the three Olympics following, Ben Ainslie is today on the verge of becoming the world’s most successful Olympics sailor.
One would suggest to his rivals competing for Olympic gold at Weymouth, then, that making him angry and giving him further reason to seek success would not be a wise move.
Current leading sailor in the men’s Finn class, Jonas Hoegh-Christensen, has failed to heed that advice. Ainslie trails the Dane by two points heading into today’s medal race, with Christensen having beaten the Brit seven times in ten of the qualifying races.
The Dane is 7/4 to wrap up the gold medal and complete an unlikely comeback, after retiring following a disappointing performance in Beijing. An attempt to forge a career in music was eventually scrapped in order to return and challenge Ainslie at London 2012.
But he hit something of a bum note with the experienced British sailor during race eight on Thursday, when he and third placed sailor, Dutchman Pierre-Jan Postma, forced him to do a penalty turn after they believed he hit the third mark when attempting to round it.
Ainslie took the penalty and lost ground on his rivals, before catching up 70 metres on the final leg to finish ahead of Christensen and claw back crucial points.
In the post-race interviews, it was clear that Ainslie was not happy:
“He and the Dutch guy basically teamed up to claim I hit the mark when I didn’t. Fortunately I’m old enough and wise enough not to fall for that trick and took the penalty turn. But it has certainly fired me up for the finish and fired me up for tomorrow.”
Tomorrow” was Friday, when a Hulk-inspired Ainslie backed up his words by finishing first in race ten, meaning that he only needs to finish ahead of Christensen to win gold – he’s 2/5 to do so – though must also be wary of Postma. Should Ainslie and Christensen get too caught up in their own duel and subsequently slip out of the top seven, a Postma victory would see an unlikely gold head to Holland, at 50/1.
As well as anger, and experience, Ainslie is expected to have the advantage of light winds – the Macclesfield-born sailor thrives in calm conditions. With a packed Nothe spectator area in Weymouth roaring him on, Ainslie should reap his revenge and enter the history books, back him at 2/5.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.