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Exclusive: As UK Sport"s record 355m investment in British athletes begins, Sportsmail speaks to those who have already seen gold from the…

EXCLUSIVE: As UK Sport's record 355m investment in British athletes begins, Sportsmail speaks to those who have already seen gold from the funding boost

, in which Great Britain won 65 Olympic medals and 120 at the Paralympics and finished third in the medals table in both events, but British sport has aimed high since National Lottery funding was introduced in 1997. It is hard to believe Britain won just one gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Joy: The Olympic Parade which celebrated all the British success during the Olympics and Paralympics

Joy: The Olympic Parade which celebrated all the British success during the Olympics and Paralympics

Glory boys: Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent were the only GB gold medalists in Atlanta

Glory boys: Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent were the only GB gold medalists in Atlanta

Here, some of the athletes who have benefited from UK Sport funding tell Sportsmail exactly what it has meant to them…

Sir Ben Ainslie, 36
Four-time Olympic gold medallist, sailing

‘Trying to become the first nation to better our performance after a home Olympics is a fantastic goal. For me, it shows just how far British sport has come.

‘I’m not thinking about Rio right now because I’m in San Francisco with my America’s Cup team but you never know – it’s still a few years away.

History: Ben Ainslie won a record fourth sailing gold medal after a titanic battle in London

History: Ben Ainslie won a record fourth sailing gold medal after a titanic battle in London

'I’m happy with the decisions I’ve made in my career so far and I’ll definitely be in Brazil in some capacity, even if I’m not racing.

Sir: Ainslee was knighted for his heroics

Sir: Ainslee was knighted for his heroics

‘I started receiving funding in 1997. I went to my first Olympics in 1996 and won a silver medal, but we didn’t do very well as a team. We won just one gold medal – in rowing, Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent in the men’s coxless pair. It was a pretty poor performance overall.

‘Then UK Sport funding came in and I think, straight away, you could see a big change in the way we were able to train. We enjoyed a big jump up the medal table in Sydney (from 36th to 10th) and that continued all the way to London.

‘British sport became more
professional, but the rest of the world upped their game as well. When I
started travelling to compete internationally most people were sleeping
in tents or in the back of their cars and trying to hold down jobs as
well as training.

'There
were very few full-time athletes. I think that’ s been the biggest
change: we have always had the passion but we simply didn’t have the
time to train and recover properly.

‘I
was lucky because I was still studying, but I relied on my parents an
awful lot. I’m sure they were very relieved when funding came on, as a
lot of parents must have been.

‘The
medical support has been unbelievable. I had a back injury six months
before London and it really was a difficult time. I had to have surgery
and a lot of physio but the support I received was phenomenal. It made a
huge difference to me and my chances of winning that gold medal.

‘Could I have achieved what I did without funding It’s a difficult one. I was fortunate in that I had success early on and was able to attract commercial sponsors, but I couldn’t have done it without the coaching and medical support there in the background.

'It was about setting up a long-term strategy to win medals and they certainly got the right people and the right strategy to do that.’

Perri Shakes-Drayton, 24. Double European indoor champion, athletics

‘It meant a lot to win two gold medals at the European Indoor Championships (in the 400m and 4 x 400m relay) in Gothenburg. You train to win medals and to be a champion was even better.

'The training that I’ve done and any doubts I may have had have gone away. I can do it and I want more. It gave me that confidence that I am as good as the rest of the girls and I want to maintain it.

Champion: Perri Shakes-Drayton won gold in the Women's 400m at the European Indoor Athletics

Champion: Perri Shakes-Drayton won gold in the Women's 400m at the European Indoor Athletics

‘It meant a lot after the Olympics. I finished on a high and I kept running close to my personal best but it was a disappointment (failing to make the final of the 400m hurdles). But rewards will come. The European titles have put the Games behind me. It’s a good feeling.

‘The 400 metres isn’t my event and hopefully I can transfer that speeds to the hurdles now. I enjoy them – there is a lot more to think about, but I haven’t achieved what I want to do yet over the hurdles.

'I’m not saying “bye” to them yet. Hurdling comes naturally now. I see a hurdle and I know how to attack it.

‘I want to come home with a medal from the World Championships in Moscow in August. I want one and I have to win one. That’s my aim.

Pedigree: The British quarter cruised to victory in the Women 4 x 400m relay

Pedigree: The British quarter cruised to victory in the Women 4 x 400m relay

‘Chris Zah has been my only coach, for the past 11 years. He took me from the grass roots to the world-class athlete I am today. It’s not really common for that to happen, but we’ve grown as a team and learnt together.

‘We’ll stay in Mile End, not move to Loughborough. We’ll stay in that gritty, crusty gym in east London because it’s working for us. It’s a good set up and I’ m not going anywhere for the moment.

‘National Lottery funding just makes life so much easier for me. The money I receive in support helps with training camps – I’m going to Daytona in Florida for a month on April 2.

I don’t take it for granted because it makes life so much more stress-free. All I have to do is worry about getting to training on time and being the athlete that I have to be to achieve my goals.’

Becky James, 21. Double world champion, track cycling.

‘I couldn’t have made my career without Lottery funding, I’ve had it since I was 15 and it’s been a huge support for me. Without it, I couldn’t make a career out of cycling because women get paid differently to men if, say, I was on a road team.

'It gives you such a lift when you first get on the programme and you become part of British Cycling, too. It’s been a great help.

‘I’m sure I wouldn’t be a double World Champion if I had a part-time job. I worked until I left home – I used to work in a kitchen doing all the food prep and washing up, which wasn’t the most glamorous job. Then I did a bit of waitressing and then I worked in a cake shop for two years in Abergavenny – serving coffee and cakes. It probably wasn’t the most productive thing to do for my sport, but it was fun.’

Double: Becky James won two gold medals at the World Cycling Championships in Scotland

Double: Becky James won two gold medals at the World Cycling Championships in Scotland

Funding: UK Sport have been a key part of James' immediate success

Funding: UK Sport have been a key part of James' immediate success

Quillan Isidore, 16, joined UK Sport’s World Class Performance Programme as a Development athlete in November 2012 after winning the Boys Under-16 category at the UCI BMX World Championships in Birmingham last May.

Winner: James with her gold medal in the individual sprint

Winner: James with her gold medal in the individual sprint

‘I always looked up to people in the GB team and wished I could be one of them. It was a dream when I made it onto the Olympic development programme for BMX because there are only five of us: four boys and one girl. It’s really good when we all go away for training – that’s what I want to live my life like but I’m still at school so I have to be patient. But I’m proud to represent the British team and follow in the steps of people like Sir Chris Hoy.

‘I still live at home in south London so I get a set programme to follow from my coach. I’m very dedicated – I never miss training at all. We’re not the richest family so I’m really thankful for the support.

‘You can get pretty bad injuries in
this sport so it’s good to know the back-up is there, too. I’ve been
very lucky so far, but it’s impossible to be injury-free.

'I’m
aiming for the 2020 Olympics but I’ve got 2016 in the back of my mind. I
believe that if I work really hard it can be done. We’re all working
really hard to get up the rankings and try to get GB three spots in Rio.

‘I
do think BMX is becoming more of a recognised sport. I got into it
because my friend just took me to a track in Brixton one day when I was
eight. It only had about five jumps but I just loved the feeling of
getting my front wheel off the ground. I got my first bike for my eighth
birthday and have been hooked ever since.’

UK
Sport, funded by The National Lottery, is supporting Britain’s best
athletes on the #RoadtoRio. Follow their progress @uk_sport

When they were young…the 12 heroes who made us feel proud in 2012

When they were young: The 12 heroes who made us feel proud in 2012

PUBLISHED:

23:56 GMT, 15 December 2012

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UPDATED:

00:27 GMT, 16 December 2012

Tonight the BBC Sports Personality of the Year will be announced to an audience expected to top 15 million viewers.

And in a year of extraordinary sporting achievement, at London 2012 and beyond, the final 12 contenders represent the cream of British sport.

NICK HARRIS and MARTHA KELNER talked to the people who know them best to find out what they were like … when they were young.

1. SIR CHRIS HOY

Age: 36

Nominated: For winning two gold medals at London 2012, in the team sprint and keirin, to become the British sportsman with the most Olympic gold medals in history (six), overtaking Sir Steve Redgrave’s five.

Chris Hoy

Future knight: A young Chris Hoy shows off one of his first prizes

Parents: David and Carol. Mum Carol says: ‘I am just as proud of the way Chris conducts himself when he loses, when things don’t go to plan or an opponent comes up with a moment of brilliance.

'Chris is able to handle winning and losing equally and I value that in life.

'When I hear Chris described as a true “Olympian”, that means more to me than all of the medals and honours.

Great Britain's Chris Hoy celebrates winning Gold in the Mens Team Sprint Final

Olympic glory: Hoy celebrates winning Gold in the men's team sprint final. He also won the keirin

'He was brought up simply to do things as well as possible and treat other people properly, whatever the circumstances.’

Plans for future: ‘I’m definitely not going to Rio,’ says Hoy. ‘Nothing will top London.’ He hopes to cap his career on a high at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland.

2. ELLIE SIMMONDS

Age: 18

Nominated: For winning gold in the 400m freestyle, one of the most thrilling swimming races of the summer, and another gold in the 200m individual medley to add to her two Paralympic titles won at Beijing in 2008.

Parents: Steve and Val. ‘It sometimes gets a bit surreal, you have to give yourself a pinch,’ says Val of the moment she saw her teenage daughter collecting her fourth Paralympic gold medal.

Ellie Simmonds Age 7

ELLIE SIMMONDS WITH HER GOLD MEDAL FOR THE SWIMMING 200 METRES MEDLEY

Golden girl: Ellie Simonds' infectious smile was there to see at the age of seven. She went on to pick up two golds in 2012 with the 400m freestyle final considered to be one of the most exciting races of the Games

She remembers having to say goodbye when Ellie went away before Beijing for a month’s training camp in South Africa.

‘She was only 12, my little baby, but she’s very mature and loved it.’

If Ellie does not win Sports Personality, Val is backing Mo Farah.

‘I’m a keen athletics fan and used to watch it all the time before swimming took over our lives,’ she says.

Plans for the future: ‘She certainly has plenty more years to carry on swimming and get on the Sports Personality list again,’ says Val.

3. DAVID WEIR

Age: 33

Nominated: For winning three wheelchair racing gold medals on the track this summer, before topping it by becoming road race champion, the final gold of the Games and his sixth Paralympic medal in total. He has also won the London marathon six times.

Parents: Jackie and David, a former soldier from Belfast, brought up David, who was born with a severing of the spinal cord, in a similar way to his three brothers.

Britain's David Weir

David Weir age 11.

Triple gold: David Weir aged 11 (right) and in action during this summer celebrated his success with his mum in a quiet pub

‘I never mollycoddled them,’ says Jackie.

‘We brought him up to expect taunts and told him not to worry because all kids get them, don’t they’ David would join in with everything.

‘When his mates had a kickaround, David would go in goal and use his sticks to save the ball,’ says Jackie.

He celebrated winning his fourth gold in London by having a quiet drink with his mum in their local pub in Richmond.

Plans for the future: He is not thinking about defending his titles in Rio in 2016 yet but the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow are on the agenda.

4. BEN AINSLIE

Age: 35

Nominated: For winning a fourth Olympic gold this summer to confirm his status as the world’s greatest ever sailor.

Parents: Roddy and Susan. Roddy was a renowned sea captain and Ben was bred for maritime glory, given his first taste of sailing on a family holiday to Cornwall when he was eight.

Ben Ainslie

Britain's Ben Ainslie

Incredible career: Ben Ainslie has announced his Olympic retirement admitting he will never beat the buzz of Weymouth

/12/16/article-2248817-145DA7F8000005DC-915_306x454.jpg” width=”306″ height=”454″ alt=”Fourth time lucky: Katherine Grainger celebrates her gold medal after missing out in 2000, 2004 and 2008″ class=”blkBorder” />

Fourth time lucky: Katherine Grainger celebrates her gold medal after missing out in 2000, 2004 and 2008

Fourth time lucky: Katherine Grainger celebrates her gold medal after missing out in 2000, 2004 and 2008, and in her youth (right)

They knew how upset I was when we didn’t win gold at Beijing. All a parent wants is for their child to be happy, and seeing me so unhappy was very difficult for them.’

Plans for future: Says she remains undecided whether to attempt to win a fifth Olympic medal and second gold in Rio.

‘I’m certainly not burning my bridges and deciding that I won’t be at the next Olympics. I’m looking forward to getting back in a boat in 2013 and making a fresh start.’

6. ANDY MURRAY

Age: 25

Nominated: For becoming the first British man in 76 years to win a Grand Slam singles title (the US Open), having just won Olympic singles gold at Wimbledon, just a few weeks after losing on the same court against Roger Federer in the Wimbledon men’s singles final. Also won Olympic doubles silver.

ANDREW MURRAY TENNIS PLAYER FROM DUNBLANE. ANDREW IS PICTURED HERE AGED 8. Andrew Murray pictured during his first round Boys' Singles victory over Mykyta Kryvonos at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis

Andy Murray

Emotional year: After bursting into tears at Wimbledon, Andy Murray went on to grab gold in London 2012 before picking up his first grand slam

Parents: Judy and Will. Judy has been a consistent presence at courtside throughout his career after both parents, despite their divorce, helped him in his early years, funding his attendance at a Barcelona academy.

‘Both of my parents made a lot of sacrifices to give me and [brother] Jamie the opportunity to play tennis,’ he says.

Plans for future: Will certainly want to defend his Olympic crown in Rio in 2016 if fit and healthy but the demands of the singles circuit — and four Slams each year — will take precedence before then, starting with the Australian Open early in 2013.

7. BRADLEY WIGGINS

Age: 32

Nominated: For becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France and for winning the time trial gold medal at London 2012.

Olympic cyclist Bradley Wiggins aged 2 on his first ever bike

Road racer: A two-year-old Bradley Wiggins on his first ever bike

Parents: Linda and Gary. His father was an Australian cyclist who drank heavily, was violent to Linda and who abandoned the family when Wiggins was two.

Linda supported her son’s fledgling career, taking him to Paris to see the Tour when he was 13.

When he won, he pointed to Linda and said: ‘Some dreams do come true. My old mum over there

Her son has just won the Tour de France!’

Bradley Wiggins

Hot favourite: Wiggins is the bookie's favourite to scoop Sports Personality of the Year after winning Olympic gold as well as the Tour de France

Plans for future: Wiggins has said he wants to return to track cycling for the 2016 Games in Rio. Whether he goes for another Tour de France triumph depends on whether Team Sky pick him or Chris Froome as their No 1.

8. NICOLA ADAMS

Age: 30

Nominated: For becoming the first-ever female Olympic boxing champion, a feat she celebrated with a chicken wrap at Nando’s.

Nicola Adams

Olympic boxer Nicola Adams aged three.

Record breaker: Nicola Adams became the ever female boxing champion this summer

Parents: Mother Dee and father Innocent split up when Nicola was a child. When Dee could not get a babysitter, she took Nicola and brother Kurtis to an aerobics class.

Nicola, who had watched videos of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier with her dad, joined in with a boxing class instead.

‘It has been really tough for Nicola being a female boxer,’ says Dee. ‘I thought, “She’s doing this for her country and she isn’t getting the recognition she deserves”. But now she has made history. It is amazing. I am just so proud of her.’

Plans for the future: Back in training with TeamGB boxers in Sheffield. Next up are the European Championships, then the 2014 Commonwealth Games, where women’s boxing is debuting. Plans to defend her Olympic title in Rio.

9. JESSICA ENNIS

Age: 26

Nominated for: Coping with the pressure of being the face of the Games and dominating the Olympic heptathlon, before sealing victory in the 800m.

Jessica Ennis

Jessica Ennis - aged 4

Super Saturday: Ennis played a huge role in one of the greatest nights of sport this country has ever seen

Parents: Vinnie and Alison took Jessica and younger sister Carmel to an athletics summer camp when she was 10.

‘I think they just wanted to get rid of me for a bit,’ jokes Jessica. But while Carmel did not like running, Jess thrived.

‘She always wanted to stand on the top of a podium and I’m just so proud of her,’ says Vinnie.

‘After all those years of going to low-key meetings when she was little with the rain and the snow and the early mornings, it has all come together and it’s just brilliant.’

Plans for the future: A spring wedding to childhood sweetheart Andy Hill means a delayed start to the 2013 outdoor season. Has not ruled out defending her heptathlon title in Rio but may switch to the hurdles.

10. RORY MCILROY

Age: 23

Nominated: For winning his second major and being part of Europe’s winning Ryder Cup team.

Parents: Father Gerry McIlroy worked 100 hours a week and mother Rosie did night shifts at a factory in their native Holywood, in Northern Ireland, to save to send Rory to competitions in the US as a junior.

Rory McIlroy on his local golf course aged nine

Rory McIlroy f

In form: Rory McIlroy bagged his second major while playing his part in a hugely emotional Ryder Cup

It has paid off already but there could be a further 200,000 windfall for Gerry and three friends, who bet 400 at 500-1 that the then 15-year-old would win The Open before 2014.

‘It’s ridiculous really, isn’t it’ says Gerry. ‘You realise you can make more money on the golf tour in one week than some people make in a lifetime.’

Plans for the future: Greg Norman believes Rory McIlroy is more likely to break Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major wins than Tiger Woods. Golf will feature at Rio 2016, so McIlroy could add Olympic gold to his impressive medal cabinet.

11. SARAH STOREY

Age: 35

Nominated: For winning four cycling gold medals in the Paralympics, including Britain’s first gold of those Games in the Velodrome, having narrowly missed selection to compete for Team GB at the Olympics.

Sarah Storey

 Sarah Storey

Ruling the roads: Storey picked up a phenomenal four gold medals at the Paralympics

Parents: John and Mary Bailey, who wore T-shirts at the Games listing every gold medal their daughter had ever won in swimming and cycling, as well as being ‘the Under-14s Cheshire table tennis champion’.

Storey was born without a functioning left hand and was bullied at school.

‘When I was at my lowest, my parents told me to keep looking to the future, that everything would be all right,’ she says. ‘It was the best lesson anyone could have taught me.’

Plans for future: Says that defending her four Paralympic titles at Rio 2016 would be ‘the ultimate dream’.

12. MO FARAH

Age: 29

Nominated: For winning a historic Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m distance double in London and making the Mo-bot his trademark.

Parents: Father Muktar left Somalia as a young man to settle in London and met Mo’s mother, Amran, during a holiday in his homeland.

Mo Farah

Mo Farah,14

Party time: Mo Farah (aged 14 – right) created one of the most iconic images of London 2012

They married and brought Mo to London as an eight-year-old for the opportunity of a more prosperous life after weighing up the cost of parting him from his twin brother, Hassan, and two older brothers who remained in Somalia.

When Mo arrived at Feltham Community College as an 11-year-old he was barely able to speak English.

‘I was giving a javelin lesson and trying to instill some discipline into the boys,’ says PE teacher, Alan Watkinson.

‘I walked on to the field and Mo was swinging on the crossbar.’ Mo went the wrong way round the athletics track the first time he ran — but soon found his direction.

Plans for the future: Could run the marathon as well as the 10,000m at Rio in 2016, but that would be a tough challenge.

Ben Ainslie retires from Olympic sailing

Britain's greatest sailor Ainslie calls time on Olympic career after London glory

PUBLISHED:

06:52 GMT, 27 November 2012

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UPDATED:

08:38 GMT, 27 November 2012

Four-time Olympic sailing gold medallist Ben Ainslie has announced he will not compete at Rio 2016.

Ainslie, 35, has decided to call time on his glittering Olympic career to focus on his America's Cup campaign.

Ainslie won the Finn class at London 2012 – his fourth gold medal in his fifth Games – but will not defend that title in Rio.

Golden boy: Ben Ainslie won his fourth gold medal at London 2012

Golden boy: Ben Ainslie won his fourth gold medal at London 2012

Ainslie tweet

He told the Daily Telegraph: 'No more Olympic villages. No more opening or closing ceremonies. After almost
20 years entirely dedicated to the pursuit of gold, taking in five Olympic
campaigns, I have decided I will not attempt a sixth at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

'Those of you who saw me cross the finish line in the Finn medal race in
Weymouth and Portland earlier this year may not be overly surprised to hear
that. I said a few things in the heat of the moment to the lurking BBC media
boat to the effect that the toll on my body was becoming too great. In my
defence I was flooded with emotion and exhausted from the toughest week of my
entire career.

'It was a bit of a Steve ‘if you ever see me anywhere near a boat again, you
have my permission to shoot me’ Redgrave moment.

'In my mind I certainly hadn’t ruled out another crack at the Olympics. When
you have spent your whole life focused so intently on something it is not that
easy to let it go.

Flying the flag: Ainslie won gold in the finn class

Flying the flag: Ainslie won gold in the finn class

YET ANOTHER GOLD AND HISTORY FOR BEN AINSLIE AS HE WINS GOLD IN THE FINN CLASS AT WEYMOUTH. PICTURE MURRAY SANDERS

YET ANOTHER GOLD AND HISTORY FOR BEN AINSLIE AS HE WINS GOLD IN THE FINN CLASS AT WEYMOUTH. PICTURE MURRAY SANDERS

'The reason I waited before making this decision is down to a couple of
factors. Firstly, I wanted to see what came out of the International Sailing
Federation (ISAF) conference in Dublin a few weeks ago. In particular I was
interested to know which classes would be on the Olympic programme at Rio.

'Because of the wear and tear of a lifetime spent sailing, particularly on my
back, which was a real issue this summer, it was always going to be an uphill
struggle to do the Finn again in Brazil. However, if the Star two-handed dinghy
had been reinstated I might just have considered giving that a go. It would not
have been easy dislodging Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, should they have
decided to do another campaign, but there might have been a chance.'

Ainslie won silver at his first Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 in the Laser class and took Laser gold in Sydney four years later. He then moved to the Finn class taking gold in Athens, Beijing and London.

Ainslie did not announce his Olympic retirement immediately after winning in Weymouth. Instead he waited for the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) conference in Dublin to find out which classes would be on the Olympic programme for Rio.

Lip service: Ainslie celebrates winning gold at Athens in 2004

Lip service: Ainslie celebrates winning gold at Athens in 2004

In the swim: Ainslie celebrates in the water in Athens

Making a splash: Ainslie celebrates in the water in Athens

He admits that had the Star two-handed dinghy been reinstated he might have considered 'giving that a go' but it was not.

'Because of the wear and tear of a lifetime spent sailing, particularly on my back, which was a real issue this summer, it was always going to be an uphill struggle to do the Finn again in Brazil,' he said.

Ainslie will now concentrate on an America's Cup World Series campaign with JP Morgan BAR.

'I feel increasingly confident that we can one day challenge for the America's Cup proper. Not at next year's event in San Francisco – that will be too soon – but perhaps the one after that.'

The sailor envisages skippering his Ben Ainslie Racing AC45 catamaran to glory in the historic competition will be one of the 'biggest tests' of his career.

'It's always been a dream of mine since I was a kid to be part of a winning Americas Cup team and ultimately I want to try and bring it back to the UK where it all started in 1851.'

Wizard of Oz: Ainslie celebrates his gold medal-winning success in the Laser class sailing in Sydney in 2000

Wizard of Oz: Ainslie celebrates his gold medal-winning success in the Laser class sailing in Sydney in 2000

High point: Ainslie admits it would be hard to top winning home Games

High point: Ainslie admits it would be hard to top winning home Games

Royal Yachting Association performance director John Derbyshire paid tribute to Ainslie.

'The word “legend” is often over-used in sport, but Ben really is one – a determined yet unassuming, modest, often under-recognised legend in this nation's sporting history.

'He has been a talismanic figure in the RYA's Olympic programme for over 16 years, through his successes inspiring new waves of sailors to get involved in the sport, and passing on his tireless work ethic and campaign skills to other young talents, who will look to follow in his footsteps and take on the challenge of keeping GBR a leading light in Olympic sailing in the years to come.

'Ben has always made it clear that his two career goals have been to win Olympic gold, and to win the America's Cup. With four Olympic golds and a silver across five Games, and now the most successful Olympic sailor of all time, he has nothing left to prove in Olympic terms and there can be no question that he's more than achieved his first goal.

'It's therefore entirely understandable that he should now want to turn his attentions to the second, and hopefully lead a British team to win the oldest trophy in sport for the very first time.'

RYA Olympic manager Stephen Park said: '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 with JPMorgan Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) and his uncompromising focus on an America's Cup-winning campaign.

'I know we will continue to keep in close contact with Ben, who is keen to help and support the Olympic programme and talented youngsters coming through in whatever way he can.'

Ben Ainslie factfile

1977: Born on February 5 in Macclesfield, Lancashire. His father, Roddy, sailed in the first Whitbread Round the World Race.

1996: Having won the European Championships and finished third in the Laser World Championships, he goes on to win silver at the Olympic Games in Atlanta aged 19.

1997: Finishes third in the Laser World Championships and takes bronze at the European Championships.

1998: Wins both the Laser European and World Championships.

1999: Ainslie is named British Yachtsmen of the Year and World Sailor of the Year, having won the Europeans and World Championships yet again.

2000: Sees off competition from Brazil's Robert Scheidt to win Laser gold at the Sydney Olympics. Also wins Laser Europeans and finishes third in the Laser World Championships. Named British Yachtsmen of the Year and made MBE in New Year Honours list.

2002: After spending 14 months with the 'One World Challenge' America's Cup campaign, Ainslie moves to the Finn class. He wins the first of what prove to be many World Championships in the division and takes the Finn Europeans. Becomes British Yachtsmen of the Year and World Sailor of the Year.

2003: Takes another Finn Gold Cup and another Finn European crown.

2004: Ainslie's dominance of the Finn class continues as he wins a second Olympic gold medal in Athens, Greece. Also takes the World and European crowns as he is named British Yachtsmen of the Year for a fourth time. Inducted into the Finn Hall of Fame.

2005: Ainslie racks up a fourth successive Finn Gold Cup and receives OBE. He also wins the Finn Europeans.

2008: After re-entering the America's Cup arena with Emirates Team New Zealand, he returns to the Olympic circuit to win an unprecedented fifth world title, European title and Olympic gold in Qingdao, China. He is named British Yachtsmen of the Year for a fifth time, World Sailor of the Year yet again and made CBE.

2011: Fights off tough competition to be selected for the British sailing squad in the Finn class. Year ends in controversy at the ISAF World Championships in Perth, Australia, where he is involved in an altercation with a media boat.

2012: In January launches Ben Ainslie Racing, a new team that will initially compete in the next edition of the America's Cup World Series along with plans to join ORACLE Racing for the defence of the 34th America's Cup. Having recovered from back surgery, he wins the Finn Gold Cup for a record sixth time in Falmouth, Cornwall.

August 5 – Wins fourth Olympic gold medal, triumphing in the Finn class on home waters off Weymouth at the

London 2012 Games. With four golds and a silver, Ainslie becomes the most successful sailor in Olympic history.

November 27 – Announces that he will not compete at Rio 2016 bringing down the curtain on a glittering Olympic career and says he will now focus on his America's Cup campaign.

Sir Chris Hoy interview – On not going to Rio, his love of speed and enjoying his life

EXCLUSIVE Sir Chris Hoy: Cycling has consumed me for 20 years and my body just won't make it to Rio

|

UPDATED:

22:50 GMT, 14 November 2012

The banking of the Manchester velodrome looks steeper than ever as you watch from a hospitality box perched above one of the bends.

Bikes clap around at gravity-defying angles and Sir Chris Hoy, watching on, talks about how it helps to look forward rather than down.

The advice he dispenses to cycling beginners he is applying more broadly to himself. There will not be another Olympics for Hoy. He is 36 and the track to Rio 2016 stretches further than the eye can see.

Prospects: Sir Chris Hoy is looking forwards, not backwards, as he approaches the end of his cycling career

Prospects: Sir Chris Hoy is looking forwards, not backwards, as he approaches the end of his cycling career

His back and knees, which have squatted under the sort of weights that give you Popeye thighs, would struggle to last the distance.

'I'm definitely not going to Rio,' he confirmed, which means he is not about to 'do a Redgrave' by going back on the undertaking he made while the sweat was still wet.

'It is 100 per cent ruled out. Nothing will top London. And four years is too much to ask. We're not talking about a sport like equestrianism where you can go on to an older age.

'I think the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow would be a nice way to end it. That's only two years away and I have never competed seriously in Scotland. If it was anywhere else in the world I wouldn't even think about it. I am not expecting to be there but if I can be there, it would be great.

'You don't know how your body is going to shape up. It's whether you can maintain the performance – or improve it – without getting injured. That's the battle every athlete faces and the older you get the harder it becomes.

'You are always pushing, pushing, pushing but it is when you do that that your body can break down. In terms of doing any competition, I'll leave it until at least next summer before making a call.'

Therefore, Hoy will not be competing in the new velodrome named after him when the World Cup comes to Glasgow tomorrow, 101 days after he won the last of his six Olympic gold medals.

That'll do: Hoy wins his sixth Olympic gold medal

Greatest show

Glory days: Hoy celebrates winning his sixth Olympic gold medal (left) at the London 2012 Games

He will merely be watching an event showcasing the younger generation of British track stars: three-time Olympic champion Jason Kenny, double champion Laura Trott as well as Ed Clancy, Jess Varnish and Becky James are chief among them.

For Hoy, post-London life has been a whirl of open-top bus rides and acclamation, including being handed the freedom of his home city, Edinburgh. Ten weeks after the Olympic closing ceremony he had not spent longer than 48 hours in one place. His kitbag was still packed.

Time has now allowed him to work through Sky+ recordings, feet up, glass of wine in hand. He has just returned from holiday in America with his wife Sarra. He is, as we said, looking forward.

He loves speed, having recently flown
in a Typhoon fighter jet and enjoyed it. Motor racing beckons him.
After taking part in various track days over the last few years, he has
decided to compete in the 2013 Radical SR1 Cup with 23 fellow novices.
After instruction, he will race eight times.

'I absolutely love it,' he
says of his new car. 'There's a bit of a leap of faith throwing
yourself into the corner and braking later than you would normally in a
car that doesn't have the same downforce, so it's a whole new
experience.'

But
cycling still courses through his veins. Ask him about any aspect of it
and he has a ready answer. Divert the conversation too far and he does
not want to know. What, for example, is his take on Scottish
independence 'I think that's why they have a curtain on the booth I am
a sportsman. You'll have to ask a politician about that.'

Guest of honour: Hoy delivers the match ball before the international rugby match between Scotland and New Zealand on November 11

Guest of honour: Hoy delivers the match ball before the international rugby match between Scotland and New Zealand on November 11

I thought that a man who has been such a conspicuously fine ambassador for British sport, never failing to say the right thing, might wish to expand his statesmanship into a hinterland. No, he just does what he does, brilliantly and modestly.

At the photo-shoot that followed our
chat, he shook hands with everyone in the room, be they important or
decidedly ancillary. Anyway, motor racing is a hobby, so he is planning
his next venture in cycling.

'I have been working on this project for 18 months and this will represent my post-competitive life,' he says.

'The final touches are being put to that before we announce what it will be at the end of the month. But it will be in cycling.

Arise: Hoy is knighted by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace

Arise: Hoy is knighted by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace

'I've
been involved in cycling all my life and at a high level for 20 years.
It consumes your every waking minute whether you are aware of it or not:
your last training session, your next session, what you are eating
next.

'It is a
passion. It is almost a dream because if you had said to me when I was
10 that I'd spend all this time riding, travelling the world and being
paid to do it, I'd have taken that over being an astronaut, a racing
driver or a fireman.

'I'm
still like that kid who loves being involved in bikes. That is why I
have chosen to do what I am now embarking on. I need something else that
really excites me.'

Hoy may not have a published view on
Alex Salmond's nationalist plans but he is perfectly positioned to
deliver a verdict on sporting greatness. No other British Olympian has
won six gold medals. Sir Steve Redgrave has five. Hoy's cycling
colleague Bradley Wiggins, rower Sir Matt Pinsent and sailor Ben Ainslie
have four.

Wiggins,
whose Olympic collection amounts to four golds, one silver and two
bronze, is a national icon primarily for another reason: he is the first
British winner of the Tour de France. So does that make him better than
Redgrave

'No,' says Hoy, turning his thoughts to the ultimate saloonbar debate.

'Bradley
is responsible for the greatest single achievement by a British
sportsman. I stand by that. But as an overall achievement, Steve's
record of five consecutive golds is yet to be beaten.

'I understand what it is like to do four Games. He won gold and then defended it, and did it again and again and again. Nobody has ever done that, and until someone does, he is the greatest. And I don't think anyone will do it in such a physically demanding sport as rowing. I know a little bit about it because I rowed as a junior.'

That was at George Watson's College, an independent school in Edinburgh. Trying the political angle again, what did he make of David Cameron's view that not enough Olympic medallists came from the state sector

'I have no thoughts on that to be honest,' he said. 'I am just pleased to have had the opportunities I was given by my school and my parents.'

David and Carol, two lovely people who are happy to dine with us hacks on trips abroad, support Chris avidly, unfurling the 'Real McHoy' banner at every appropriate time. There must be something of the values they instilled in their son that has led him to be such an outspoken advocate of doping-free sport. This is sports politics, you see.

Drug free sport: Hoy says he has never been offered drugs to boost his performance

Drug free sport: Hoy says he has never been offered drugs to boost his performance

I tell him that David Millar, the reformed EPO user, disparagingly referred to him and Redgrave as 'white knights' in an interview before the Games. Hoy had not seen it. 'He is entitled to his opinion,' comes the chilly response.

'I have always had a very clear view on the matter. It is black and white. You just don't do it.' But, of course, they nearly all did, in road cycling at least. The recent Lance Armstrong revelations tell us all we need to know about the pervasive culture.

Hoy adds: 'It is disappointing to see what was going on in the past. But that is what it is: the past. That is why Team Sky (the British road team run by Dave Brailsford) was set up, almost as a riposte to the system, to say, “We are going to do it our own way”.

'We ride bikes but that is the only similarity between a track sprinter and a Tour de France rider. They are two different sports.

'I have never been offered drugs, and bear in mind all the gyms I have been to across the country. That's the truth. Maybe I'm lucky but I have never been put in that position.

'We now have the “whereabouts” system – where you have to be available to the testers at a given place for one hour each day. If you are not there, it is one strike. Three strikes and it's taken to be a positive test. It is one of the reasons why it is becoming a far cleaner and safer world in which to become a sportsperson.'

Solid gold: Diplomatic and reasonable, Hoy is well liked

Solid gold: Diplomatic and reasonable, Hoy is well liked

Hoy is a true but hard sportsman, yet he became entangled in one seemingly murky incident, when Britain's young German-born rider Philip Hindes fell off his bike in the Olympic team sprint competition. It necessitated a restart.

Hindes later told the BBC he had fallen off deliberately because he had not got away as fast as he would have liked. A minor storm blew up. Was this cheating Hindes' poor English was used as an excuse for his admission. So, too, was the notion that his comments were meant as a joke. Hoy sticks to that line.

'It was his humour,' he says. 'We were thinking, “What is he talking about” He comes out with some funny stuff. He was thrust into the limelight and I think he was a bit embarrassed about crashing.

'We take the mickey out of him sometimes but he is a good lad. You wondered if it would have repercussions but it didn't. I'm 36 and he was 19. When you are that age everything is different and new.'

Diplomatic and reasonable, nothing is new to cycling's elder statesman. Nothing, that is, but looking to the future and the rest of his life.

Sir Chris Hoy is a member of the British Cycling Team and is pictured wearing current British Cycling clothing produced by adidas. To purchase a replica, visit www.wiggle.com and to discuss British Cycling visit @adidasUK on Twitter.

BBC to list super 12 for Sports Personality of the Year award after golden year

BBC to list super 12 for Sports
Personality of the Year award

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UPDATED:

21:55 GMT, 18 October 2012

The BBC's shortlist for the Sports
Personality of the Year award will be extended to 12 names in
recognition of the unprecedented achievements this summer.

A new selection format will also be
revealed on Friday, with Baroness Grey-Thompson, Denise Lewis and Sir
Steve Redgrave part of a 12-person panel given the task of picking the
candidates ahead of the public vote on December 16.

Favourite: Bradley Wiggins

In the running: Bradley Wiggins

Sportsmail's head of sport, Lee Clayton, is one of three newspaper executives who have been choosen to take part in the process.

The changes to the procedure are in part a response to the outcry caused when last year's version did not include any female nominees. Magazines Nuts and Zoo were two of the 27 publications which received a vote.

Bradley Wiggins, who became the first Briton to win the Tour de France before taking the Olympic time-trial crown, is the bookies' favourite with Andy Murray, who won Britain's first Grand Slam title since 1936 at the US Open – as well as gold and silver at London 2012 – in second.

In Redgrave's eyes, Wiggins has a winning pedigree. 'We have had tennis players who have won Grand Slams,' he said. 'We have never had anybody who has won the Tour de France.'

Golden girl: Ellie Simmonds

Golden girl: Ellie Simmonds

Redgrave revealed that his shortlist so far also includes three Paralympians – David Weir, Sarah Storey and Ellie Simmonds.

Sue Barker, Gary Lineker and Clare Balding will host the show in front of a capacity crowd of 15,000 at the ExCeL Arena, making it the largest gathering in the award's 59-year history. Viewers will be asked to vote for the winner during the broadcast.

Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis are two others in contention and Ennis pipped Farah to the title of British Olympic Athlete of the Year. The heptathlon gold medallist claimed 48 per cent of the vote. Wheelchair racer Weir also collected 48 per cent of the vote en route to claiming the Paralympic award.

Oscar Pistorius golfing at Dunhill Links: Sprinter terrified by dancing

Gold-winning sprinter Pistorius picks up the clubs and reveals dancing terror

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UPDATED:

17:54 GMT, 3 October 2012

Oscar Pistorius said the most petrifying three minutes of his life had nothing to do with the Olympics or Paralympics.

The 25-year-old amputee sprinter, who has switched to golf in Scotland this week as one of the celebrities at the Dunhill Links Championship pro-am, said: 'I had to do a 'Dancing with the Stars' thing last year in Italy.

'I would like to have two left feet, but I have no feet at all! That for me was by far the most nerve-wracking thing I've ever done.

Challenges: Oscar Pistorius revealed his dancing ordeal

Challenges: Oscar Pistorius revealed his dancing ordeal

'It was 157 seconds of absolute torture – but a lot of fun.'

Pistorius partners Paul McGinley at Carnoustie on Thursday alongside Colin Montgomerie and Sir Steve Redgrave and has warned them not to expect too much.

'My golf is rubbish at the moment and I've got quite a dodgy game as it is. Yesterday I shot 88 or 89 and today (in his final practice round) I shot closer to triple digits.'

Building: Pistorius is trying to improve his golf game

Building: Pistorius is trying to improve his golf game

Pistorius, who had a double below-the-knee amputation as a baby after being born without a fibula in either leg, was bought his first set of clubs as a teenager, but running soon took over his life.

He competed in the London Olympics in both the 400metres and 4x400m relay and then won two golds at the Paralympics to take his career total to six.

The man known as 'Blade Runner' is aiming for the 2016 Games in Rio and then possibly one more year of competition after that.

One more shot: Pistorius wants to compete in Rio

One more shot: Pistorius wants to compete in Rio

He added: 'I'll be 30 then, so it's fairly early for a sprinter, but I've been running since I was 17 and internationally since 2007.

'It's a very demanding career and I would like to get involved in other aspects of my life, in humanitarian work and family life.'

London 2012 Olympics Cycling: Sir Chris Hoy could compete at Rio Games in 2016

EXCLUSIVE: Hero Hoy may ride on and go for more gold in Rio

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UPDATED:

23:23 GMT, 8 August 2012

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Sir Chris Hoy could be tempted into making a dramatic U-turn and take part in the 2016 Olympics.

Hoy, who won his sixth Olympic gold in the Velodrome on Tuesday, is desperate to compete in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow — something he previously called ‘the perfect way’ to end his career. Then he will decide whether continuing to Rio to chase more medals is an option.

Carry on cycling: Sir Chris Hoy has hinted he may ride in Rio in four years time

Carry on cycling: Sir Chris Hoy has hinted he may ride in Rio in four years time

While Hoy’s camp maintain the 36-year-old is certain to resist the temptation to compete in his fifth Games, Sportsmail understands that the Scot was so overwhelmed by the emotion of Tuesday’s triumph, he is having second thoughts about retiring.

Hoy’s decision may well depend on how his body feels. He admitted after his keirin win that he is unsure whether he can carry on training for 35 hours a week.

The end: Hoy won two gold medals at London 2012 in what was expected to be his final Olympics

The end: Hoy won two gold medals at London 2012 in what was expected to be his final Olympics

Hoy became Britain’s most decorated Olympian with his two golds in London, surpassing Sir Steve Redgrave, who has backed him to continue. ‘Chris has the capability. He’s still a young man in my eyes,’ he said. ‘He’s on the top of the world and can carry on for the next four years if he wants to.’

London Olympics 2012: BBC video highlights from day 11

Watch BBC video highlights from day 11 of the Olympics

PUBLISHED:

05:50 GMT, 8 August 2012

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UPDATED:

05:50 GMT, 8 August 2012

So, after Super Saturday, we've now got Terrific Tuesday. Team GB broke through their Beijing total in style on day 11 of the Olympics, winning four gold medals.

Alistair Brownlee got the ball rolling with the thoroughly dominant display in the triathlon against the backdrop of London's glorious greenery in Hyde Park.

The Brownlee family's day was made all the more special by younger brother Jonny coming home in third despite a 15-second penalty.

From there it was over to Greenwich Park where the dressage team of Laura Bechtolsheimer, Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin quickly added another – GB's first ever in the equestrian discipline.

The final act of a glorious day was given, though, to Britain's greatest ever Olympian, Sir Chris Hoy, who scooped his sixth Olympic gold to surpass Sir Steve Redgrave.

Also in the velodrome, there were top gongs for up-and-coming rider Laura Trott, while Victoria Pendleton bowed out of track cycling with a silver medal in the individual pursuit.

Watch highlights of day 11 on the video player below…

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London 2012 Olympics: Chris Hoy wins keirin

Hoy powers into history books as legend claims SIXTH Olympic gold with stunning victory in keirin

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UPDATED:

17:20 GMT, 7 August 2012

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Sir Chris Hoy became the most successful Briton in Olympic history with six gold medals after winning the keirin at the London 2012 velodrome.

After watching Laura Trott become a double Olympic champion with victory in the omnium and the retiring Victoria Pendleton denied a golden goodbye and a third Olympic gold as a result of a 2-0 sprint final loss to perennial rival Anna Meares of Australia, Hoy triumphed.

The 36-year-old took his Olympic gold medal-winning tally to five – level with Sir Steve Redgrave – on Thursday with victory in the team sprint and won the keirin in trademark fashion to send a partisan crowd into raptures.

Bring it on: Sir Chris Hoy managed to hold off his rivals for a superb win in the keirin

Bring it on: Sir Chris Hoy managed to hold off his rivals for a superb win in the keirin

Germany's Maximilian Levy was second, while two bronze medals were awarded as Simon van Velthooven of New Zealand and Teun Mulder of Holland could not be separated by officials scrutinising the photo finish.

Hoy was third behind the motorised Derny at the and appeared boxed in as Awang Azizulhasni made his move just before the pace-setting bike left the track.

He's done it: Chris Hoy celebrates after crossing the line first in the keirin

He's done it: Chris Hoy celebrates after crossing the line first in the keirin

The Scot swiftly found a gap and eased to the front of the six-man final group before turning on the power in the final lap and into the final bend to triumph on the Olympic stage once more and successfully defend the title he won in 2008.

Hoy won one-kilometre time-trial gold in Athens eight years ago and triple Olympic gold four years later and was received by all members of the British coaching staff as he said goodbye to the Olympic stage for a final time.

More to follow…

London 2012 Olympics: Victoria Pendleton last event is sad day – Dave Brailsford

End of Queen Vic's reign in the Velodrome is a sad day, admits GB chief Brailsford

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UPDATED:

09:05 GMT, 7 August 2012

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British Cycling performance director Dave Brailsford paid tribute to Victoria Pendleton ahead of her Olympics swansong in the velodrome.

Pendleton bids to sign off with a second gold medal of London 2012 in the women's sprint that would make her Britain’s most successful female Olympian with three gold medals.

Sir Chris Hoy also goes for gold in the men's keirin knowing victory would see him climb above Sir Steve Redgrave as Britain’s most successful Olympian with six gold medals.

Waving goodbye: Victoria Pendleton is expected to retire after the Olympics

Waving goodbye: Victoria Pendleton is expected to retire after the Olympics

'We’re phenomenally proud of them,' Brailsford told BBC Breakfast. 'They’ve been the backbone of British track cycling for a long time.

'This could be the very last competition for Vicky so it’s quite a sad day for us in that respect.

'I do think she deserves special mention. She has worked so hard in the last three years to bring herself up to this level of competition.'

Brailsford is understandably pleased with Britain’s medal haul going into the final day of track cycling competition, with five track golds and one bronze already in the bag.

'It’s been great so far. We’ve three medals available today and we’re ready for them. I hope by the end of today we might have three more.'

Laura Trott is the third British rider eyeing a gold medal tonight as she completes the omnium, and Brailsford also singled her out for praise.

'Laura is a bundle of energy. She’s got this contagious enthusiasm. She’s a brilliant bike rider and it would be great if she can finish off the job today.'

One last push: Pendleton goes for gold in the women's sprint on Tuesday

One last push: Pendleton goes for gold in the women's sprint on Tuesday

Britain’s success has had their French rivals scratching their heads.

'They came up with the conclusion that we have special wheels,' said Brailsford, who believes good coaching has been a crucial factor in delivering medals.

'Essentially you have to have great riders with talent and commitment. You need both of those. But fundamentally it’s all about coaching and very good coaching.

'I’m more of an orchestra conductor. The key is to have great coaches and we have brilliant coaches.

'We have a small group led by Chris Boardman who look for the latest innovations in other industries and apply them to cycling.

'You start by analysing the event that you want to win and then you give yourself priorities because you can’t win everything.

Six of the best Sir Chris Hoy can win yet another gold in the men's keirin

Six of the best Sir Chris Hoy can win yet another gold in the men's keirin

'We look at the gap between where we are and where we have to be to win and then we create a plan and execute it.

'If you break down everything that you need and improve every little aspect by 1 per cent then that can make a difference. Some things are essential – fitness, biomechanics, etc – others are less essential but can make the difference such as posture when you sleep, using the right kind of pillow.

'Hygiene is extremely important because you are going to get ill a little bit less. If you put all these little things together you are going to improve.'

Looking beyond London 2012, Brailsford’s enthusiasm and drive are as strong as ever.

He added: 'We’ve got Rio (2016) coming up, we want to win the Tour again and we just want to keep cycling booming, getting more people on their bikes, getting participation up.

'There has never been a better opportunity. There is something to be done to make that real link between inspiration and participation.'