Olympics anticipation palpable

Dorset Echo: Great Britain’s Ben Ainslie in action Great Britain’s Ben Ainslie in action

‘TENSION and excitement’ is building at the sailing academy on Portland as the world’s best sailors undergo last-minute training ahead of the London 2012 Games.

In just over a week’s time the Osprey Quay venue will go under ‘lockdown’ as final preparations are made to host the Olympic and Paralympic sailing events.

Britain’s triple gold and silver Olympic medallist Ben Ainslie, who is preparing to compete at his fifth consecutive Games, said: “There’s not long to go. These days are critical – it feels a bit like cramming for an exam as everyone is trying to spend as much time on the water as possible, getting prepared.

“It’s really getting exciting – so many international teams are here training and preparing, as they have been for a long time now.

“You can feel the excitement and tension building up.

“In general there’s a friendly rivalry as all the competitors know each other. We compete around the world at similar events.

“At the Olympics we’re all fighting for our nation and want to do as well as possible but that rivalry is very sporting and friendly.

“It works itself out in a good way.”

He added: “It’s really different for us as home athletes. In the past we’ve been away and abroad competing, very secluded in our own world.

“Here there is so much more going on, including family and friends watching and supporting.

“That’s the biggest challenge. It’s hard to avoid distractions but it’s something you have to accept and work around as best as possible.”

If Ainslie wins gold in the men’s heavyweight dinghy event this summer, he will become the world’s most successful-ever Olympic sailor – beating a 52-year-old record of four consecutive Olympic gold medals held by Danish sailor Paul Elvström.

Ainslie is not letting the thought overwhelm him.

“It doesn’t matter what happened in the past or the future, it’s about the here and now, I’ve got to try and do well at this event as does the rest of the British sailing team.

“We’ve got to use that focus and intensity and get that right, that’s all that matters.”

Portland’s Sonar team helm John Robertson, who will be competing at the Paralympic Games with teammates Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas, said their boats were ‘all packed up’ and ready to move to Falmouth where they will be training throughout the Olympics ahead of their big event in September.

Robertson said: “It’s all going really well, we’ve had our last week of training in the venue.

“We’ve packed all the boats up, everything’s removed from the site and now it’s just a matter of getting down to Falmouth.”

While the Olympic sailing venue goes under lockdown, the British and international competitors will continue to train, operating out of other sailing venues across the borough. The Olympic sailing races will begin on Sunday, July 29 and end on Saturday, August 11, while the Paralympic sailing events will run from September 1 to 6.

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