LONDON (Reuters) - British sailor Ben Ainslie has ruled out chasing more Olympic glory and will not compete at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, the four-times gold medalist said on Tuesday.
The 35-year-old became the first sailor to win medals at five successive Games earlier this year when he was victorious in the Finn class at the London Olympics.
It was Ainslie’s third successive Olympic gold in the Finn, following silver and gold in the smaller Laser class at Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney 2000.
“When I look back there are so many special memories; from that first medal in Atlanta 16 years ago to carrying the flag at the closing ceremony in London 2012,” he said in a statement.
”London was an incredibly special Olympics, competing on home waters and in front of a home crowd, I don’t think anything will be able to top that experience.
“But you have to move forwards and it is time to move onto the next challenge in my career.”
Ainslie’s body could no longer cope with the physical demands of the Finn class and he will now focus exclusively on his America’s Cup World Series campaign with the JP Morgan-sponsored Ben Ainslie Racing AC45 team.
”Stepping away from the Olympics was not an easy decision to make and I wanted to take some time after London to think about the future and what the next challenge would be,“ he added. ”The America’s Cup has always been a goal for me.
“With the new format of the America’s Cup World Series and the increased commercialization of the event, I feel confident that we can continue to build towards creating a commercially viable team, with the ultimate goal of challenging for the 35th America’s Cup.”
The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) said Ainslie had nothing left to achieve in terms of Olympics but kept the door ajar for the sailor were he to ever reconsider his retirement from the Games.
“From our side, the door is always open for Ben to return if he feels that gold in Rio is a viable prospect, but we wish him every success,” RYA Olympic manager Stephen Park said.
“I know we will continue to keep in close contact with Ben, who is keen to help and support the Olympic program and talented youngsters coming through in whatever way he can.”
Writing by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Ossian Shine