56OLYMPIC REVIEW OLYMPIC CONGRESS F ollowing success on his debut Olympic appearance in London, aged 20, Danish sailor Paul Elvstrøm went on to win another three consecutive gold medals and 15 World Championships over four decades. Alongside American track and field duo Carl Lewis and Al Oerter, he is the only Olympian to win the same individual event four times in a row. " My win at the 1948 Olympic Games established my strong position within the international dinghy sport. Therefore, it is the most memorable gold medal of them all to me," he explains. " To me, the Olympic Games have always overshadowed all other sailing races, so winning my first Olympic gold was the highlight of my career." After winning further golds in Helsinki, Melbourne and then Rome, Elvstrøm was a reserve for the 1964 Games, before returning in the " Star Class" competition four years later in Mexico and again in the 1972 Munich Games. After 12 years away from the Games he made history alongside his daughter Trine, when they became the first father and daughter combination to compete together at the Games. Having won the " Tornado Class" at the 1983- 4 European Championships together, they finished fourth in the same class in Los Angeles as, aged 60, Elvstrøm competed in the Olympic Games for the last time, becoming one of only four athletes to appear in eight or more editions. IOC President Jacques Rogge has referred to Elvstrøm as one of his sporting heroes - a figure who provided him with great inspiration. " I had the privilege to sail against him at the beginning of my career and he left me with a lasting impression of an outstanding athlete with a great personality," Rogge said. " The flattering remarks by Jacques Rogge mean a lot to me because he has insight and knowledge about my achievements," Elvstrøm remarks. It was a compatriot of Rogge's - André Nelis - who Elvstrøm singles out as his fiercest competitor. Nelis won silver in 1956 and bronze in 1960, when Elvstrøm made history as the first Olympian to win four consecutive gold medals in the same event. Now 81 years old and living in Copenhagen, Elvstrøm still harbours a keen interest in the Olympic Games, and particularly sailing. He is delighted that over the past few years it has become much more of a mass spectator sport and that millions can enjoy it worldwide thanks to televised coverage. In 1996 he received the prestigious " Danish Athlete of the Century" award - obviously a huge honour. " On behalf of my sport, I was thrilled to win this award, in particular because sailing was not really a spectator sport at the time," he enthuses. One of the first six inductees into the International Sailing Federation Hall of Fame, Elvstrøm's legacy to the sport goes far beyond the four Olympic gold medals that he won. He revolutionised dinghy sailing when he pioneered the " sitting out" or " hiking" technique that is the norm today. It requires great strength to perform and AboveElvstrøm at his induction into the ISAF Hall of Fame in 2005 RightSmiling after winning gold at the 1948 Olympic Games in Torbay, Devon VERY FEW OLYMPIANS HAVE MADE SUCH AN IMPACT ON THEIR SPORT, BOTH IN AND OUT OF COMPETITION, AS PAUL ELVSTRØMHAS. IN 1948, HE WON HIS FIRST OF FOUR OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALS AND TO THIS DAY HIS REVOLUTIONARY TECHNIQUES ARE STILL UTILISED. OLYMPIC REVIEW CAUGHT UP WITH THE MOST SUCCESSFUL OLYMPIC SAILOR IN HISTORY
Elvstrøm built a training bench in his garage that replicated the toe- straps for him to practise. " Within the Finn dinghy boat class, I attached importance to the physical condition, but since then the athletes have become even stronger," he modestly suggests. Elvstrøm was way ahead of his time - the self- bailer and lifejacket that he invented are also still in use on elite boats - but originally he belonged to an Olympic Movement that was steeped in amateur ideals. " I think back to the time when all athletes were amateurs, when results and financial capabilities were not correlated," he says. " Having said that, I recognise that we must put the past aside. The first job of the Olympic Movement today and in the future is to promote sport at all levels and within all areas, using the enormous media attention to enhance the excitement generated by sport throughout the world." And ahead of the Congress in Copenhagen, he has his own suggestion as to how the IOC can ensure the Olympic Games remain the world's premier sporting event, with the athletes' achievements at the forefront. " The most important challenge, I think, is to reduce the number of participants. The Olympic Games have become too big. " Let as many sports as possible be represented by less athletes than today per sport and in a way that, first of all, enhances individuals and individual performances." ¦ OLYMPIC REVIEW57 OLYMPIC CONGRESS " THE FIRST JOB OF THE OLYMPIC MOVEMENT TODAY AND IN THE FUTURE IS TO PROMOTE SPORT AT ALL LEVELS AND WITHIN ALL AREAS, USING THE ENORMOUS MEDIA ATTENTION TO ENHANCE THE EXCITEMENT GENERATED BY SPORT THROUGHOUT THE WORLD"