Ainslie contender for BBC Sports Personality of the Year

As he announces his retirement from Olympic sailing Ben Ainslie is named as one of 12 contenders for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2012. The 35-year-old Ainslie became the most decorated Olympic sailor of all time after winning his fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal and fifth Olympic medal in total at the London 2012 Olympic Games. In addition to winning his fourth Olympic gold in 2012, Ainslie secured the Finn Gold Cup (world Championship) for a record sixth time as well as a gold and a silver on the World Cup circuit. Ainslie, has confirmed that he will not be going to a sixth Games at Rio in 2016. He will now focus exclusively on his America's Cup campaign with JP Morgan BAR.

In his announcement Ainslie said: “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. I’ve had an amazing Olympic sailing career and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the countless number of people who have been involved in my sailing career to date. Their support enabled me to achieve my dreams and I could not have done it without them.”

"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 commericalistaion 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.”

Since the London Olympics Ainslie has been named 2012 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year for a record breaking fourth time and claimed the British Olympic Association’s Athlete of the Year Trophy for Sailing, for the third time and the second consecutive year.

With the success of British athletes at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the BBC felt it was necessary to extend their Sports Personality of the Year shortlist of 10 by two, making it an unprecedented round dozen.

Cyclists Bradley Wiggins and Sir Chris Hoy, tennis star Andy Murray, and athletes Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah are in the 12-strong list. Rower Katherine Grainger, golfer Rory McIlroy, boxer Nicola Adams are other hopefuls which Ainslie will be up against. Paralympians Sarah Storey, Ellie Simmonds and David Weir also make the list for the award on 16 December.

Voting will take place by phone only during the live show on the Sunday 16 December. The number to call to vote for Ainslie will be revealed on the programme, so make sure you tune in on the night! No sailor has ever received the prestigious BBC accolade, awarded annually since 1954.