Ainslie treasures torch relay run
Being the first person to run in the London 2012 Olympic torch relay was almost as special as winning a gold medal, three-time Olympic champion Ben Ainslie has declared.
Fresh from clinching his sixth world title, Ainslie was up in the early hours of the morning to complete the first leg of the relay at Land's End in Cornwall.
He said: "I would say that particular moment ranks right up there with winning a gold medal. It was incredibly special."
Despite being in great physical form as he prepares to try to win his fourth successive gold medal, Ainslie decided to walk his relay leg. He happily paused and waved so the cheering crowd of all ages could take photographs. Many of the 3,500 spectators had risen at 4am to make the trip and waved flags to support the first torchbearers.
Ainslie, 35, who grew up in the nearby harbour town of Falmouth, said: "I did all right. At least I did not trip over. I did not really want to rush it. I wanted to give everyone the chance to touch the torch. It gives everyone around the country a chance to feel part of it.
"It is one of those moments in your life where you are just in shock. It was an amazing moment. I was very proud obviously to help kick-start this period in the run-up to the Olympics. It was probably one of the more nervous moments in my life but it is so special for everybody to see the Olympic torch."
A total of 8,000 torchbearers will carry the Olympic Flame 8,000 miles over 70 days to where it will light the cauldron at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Games.
Ainslie, who also has the honour of being the first athlete to be formally selected for Team GB, will make his bid for his fourth successive gold medal at the London 2012 competition at Weymouth and Portland.
A slight wind caught the flame as his torch was lit beneath the famous Land's End sign. For a moment it looked like the flames were going to singe his eyebrows. Ainslie said: "Initially, when the gas was full up there was a bit of breeze so we had to be pretty careful. The atmosphere was great. Everyone was really excited."
Across Cornwall, thousands of excited people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the torch. Devon and Cornwall Police estimated there were 15,000 in Falmouth and in Truro, while there was another 5,000 in St Austell and in the centre of Newquay.