British Sailing Team hero Sir Ben Ainslie, the most successful Olympic sailor of all time, is amongst twelve top UK athletes competing for public votes after reaching the finals of this year’s 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards – the annual search to find the UK’s favourite Lottery-funded athlete and projects.
The Sporting Legend category in the Awards provides a golden opportunity to celebrate the remarkable achievements of the UK’s world class National Lottery funded athletes, whilst demonstrating the impact that National Lottery players have had on elite sport since 1997.
Sir Ben has competed and medalled at five Olympic Games. At his first-ever Olympic Games, aged 19, he won an Olympic silver medal and went on to establish himself as the world’s best by winning consecutive golds at the next four Olympic Games.
In addition to his Olympic glory, he is an eleven-time world champion, nine-time European Champion and four-time World Sailor of the Year. In January 2013, Ben Ainslie was knighted, a day he describes as ‘the proudest moment of my career’. In September 2013, Ben was part of one of the biggest comebacks in sporting history, winning the 34th America’s Cup with Oracle Team USA. He is now the Team Principal and Skipper of Britain’s America’s Cup Challenger for the 36th America’s Cup, INEOS TEAM UK.
Sir Ben said: “I owe a great deal of gratitude to the National Lottery and its players and I’m delighted to be a Sporting Legend finalist in the 25th Birthday National Lottery Awards. The introduction of National Lottery funding for competitive British Sailing in 1997 was a game changer and has been the bedrock on which the success of the British Sailing Team has been built on at consecutive Olympic games.
“I would like to thank National Lottery players for helping to make the British Sailing Team the most successful national Olympic sailing team of all time and for helping me to pursue and realise my dream of becoming an Olympic gold medallist.”
Whilst competing for the British Sailing Team, Sir Ben Ainslie was supported through the National Lottery funded World Class Programme, which affords athletes coaching, training, and competition support, medical, technology and scientific services.
Simon Morton, Acting Chief Executive Officer for UK Sport, said: “The National Lottery has been the absolute driving force in making the UK a true world leader in Olympic and Paralympic sport. The advent of the National Lottery 25 years ago proved the fundamental turning point in our fortunes. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to every National Lottery player for making all of our inspirational Olympic and Paralympic medal moments come true and long may this continue.”
To date over 6,000 elite athletes have benefitted from National Lottery funding, enabling them to have access to some of the best coaching, facilities and support staff in the world. Since 1997, our athletes have won 864 Olympic and Paralympic medals.
The shortlisted athletes saw off stiff competition from a longlist of over 50 other worthy contenders to reach the public voting stage in this year’s National Lottery Awards. The finalists were selected by the judging panel for their sporting achievements, passion for their sport and ability to inspire others.
The shortlisted athletes are:
Sir Chris Hoy – Cycling
David Weir CBE – Para Athletics
Dame Katherine Grainger – Rowing
Dame Kelly Holmes – Athletics
Nicola Adams OBE – Boxing
Dame Sarah Storey – Para Swimming & Para Cycling
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson – Para Athletics
Jade Jones MBE – Taekwondo
Kelly Gallagher MBE & Charlotte Evans MBE (guide) – Para Skiing
Sir Mo Farah – Athletics
Sir Steve Redgrave – Rowing
Sir Ben Ainslie – Sailing
This year, the Awards will reflect The National Lottery’s 25-year legacy, giving a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the sporting legends who have benefitted from National Lottery funding over the last quarter of a century. The impact of National Lottery funding has been truly significant, changing the face of elite sport in the country, and driving performance on the world stage.
The public vote will decide which athlete is crowned champion and the victorious athlete will receive an iconic National Lottery Awards trophy and attend a star-studded glitzy awards ceremony to be broadcast on BBC One on Tuesday 19 November.
To vote go to www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards. You can also follow the campaign on Twitter: hashtag #NLAwards. Public voting will run until midnight on Wednesday 21 August.