- 07 Sep 1960
- Rome 1960
Sailing - Paul Elvstrøm (DEN)
Denmark's Paul Elvstrøm arrived in Rome on the back of winning the gold in the Finn class yachting, at the three previous editions of the Olympic Games.
Despite being just 32, he was already considered one of the greatest sailors in Olympic history. His first gold had come, by a whisker, at the tender age of 20, while the second and third had been secured in dominant style.
His training programme was both gruelling and innovative, and he was blessed with both a calm head and great tactical acumen. Whenever the battle got fierce, Elvstrøm was always able to think clearly and make decisions that were invariably proved right.
In Rome, he started in perfect style, with a confident victory in the first race ahead of Belgium's André Nelis. The second race saw Nelis win with Elvstrøm finishing only fifth, putting the Belgian at the top of the standings with the Soviet Union's Aleksander Tšutšelov in third. Those three would go on to make up the podium.
Elvstrøm won the third race and finished second in the fourth, ahead of both of his main rivals. By now his advantage had stretched to more than a thousand points. Nelis picked up some ground in race five, but Elvstrøm's victory in race six – his third victory in six races – meant the race for gold was over. The Dane's advantage was now simply too great for him to be reeled in and he didn’t even need to take part in the final race of the regatta.
Eight years before, with youth on his side, he had also won gold with a race to spare but decided to take part in the final contest anyway, and duly won it. This time, however, he watched from the sidelines, with victory, and a place in the history books, already secured. He had become the first athlete in any sport to win individual gold medals at four consecutive Games.
Elvstrøm never won another medal, but he did keep competing. He wasn't selected for the 1964 Games but sailed as a member of keelboat crews in 1968 and 1972. He then returned to the Olympic arena in both 1984 and 1988 to partner his daughter in the mixed multi-hull category, the first time a father and daughter combination had competed in the Games. They narrowly missed out on a medal in 1984, finishing fourth, and four years later, by which point Elvstrøm was 60 years old, they finished 15th.
Crown Prince Konstantinos would soon be known to the world as King Constantine II of Greece, but in Rome he won his laurels by taking gold in the Dragon class. The sailing competitions in Rome had a particularly regal flavour, with the future Queen Sofia of Spain also representing her country.