Captain's blog: Jonas Hogh Christensen made a mistake in making Ben Ainslie angry (From Falmouth Packet)
Captain's blog: Jonas Hogh Christensen made a mistake in making Ben Ainslie angry
Watching the battle unfold between Falmouth’s Ben Ainslie and Dane Jonas Hogh-Christensen for me has been one of the highlights of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
And for anybody who has been following the sporting events in the capital the past two weeks, you’ll know there has been plenty to shout about, certainly from a Team GB perspective.
Watching the end of the medal race on Sunday though, when Hogh-Christensen put his head in his hands, you had to feel sorry for the Danish sailor.
I say that, but at the time I was too busy punching the air with delight at a fourth gold medal for Ben Ainslie to be concerned about what a sailor, two weeks before the Olympic Games I knew nothing about, cared.
I was glad he lost, delighted in fact. But in retrospect the defeat was cruel. Hogh-Christensen had led the regatta from the beginning to the moment Ainslie snatched glory from his hands.
So where did it all go wrong for Hogh-Christensen? Well for me that is simple, race number eight.
And for those who didn’t follow Ainslie’s triumph, shame on you, but I will quickly run through what happened.
Having beaten Ainslie in six out of the seven races, Hogh Christensen was leading Ainslie again as they rounded the fourth mark and headed down the final leg.
It was then Christensen, and Pieter-Jan Postma of the Netherlands, told Ainslie he had hit the mark, forcing him to do a penalty turn.
Ainslie was furious, accused the two competitors of ganging up on him and told them they had made a mistake in ‘making him angry’.
See short video clip of the interview below with the BBC reporter below.
Leading up to the London 2012 Games, double Olympic sailing gold medalist Robert Scheidt was quoted as saying “To beat Ben, you have to be at your really best, if you not at your really best you
don’t have shot.”
To be fair in the first six races Hogh-Christensen had been at his best, sailing the regatta of his life. I believe now if he had not turned to Ben and accused him of hitting that mark, the Dane would be Olympic Gold medalist and Ainslie would be collecting silver.
The BBC’s sailing commentator regularly said that Ben Ainslie was dangerous when he was ‘frustrated’ and ‘angry’.
The commentator said he could use those emotions and turn them into boat speed. He’s half right, but I don’t believe a frustrated Ainslie, is a faster Ainslie.
From a psychologist’s point of view, frustration is an emotion that leads to dejection, annoyance and doubt. An emotion that would have led Ben to think ‘there is nothing I can do to beat this guy.’
Ben even admitted he had got some of his tactics wrong up to race six. And despite a victory in race seven, he still trailed the Dane in race eight. Christensen at that point had Ainslie where he wanted him. He was frustrated, but not angry.
After the infamous race eight incident that all changed.
It was the turning point of the regatta as Ben went onto beat Hogh-Christensen in two out of the three remaining races to claim gold.
That is putting aside the fact that in race eight, after doing a penalty turn, Ainslie was so angry he managed to cut a 70-metre gap into nothing on the final downward leg and overtake Christensen to get third.
From a psychologist’s point of view, making your competitor angry, especially when it is in a sport that requires immense physical endurance, is not something you should do.
Alex Ferguson, one of the greatest man-managers in football is a firm believer that players are at their best when they are angry or resentful.
He tries to create ‘siege mentality’ within the dressing room.
Siege mentality is when you develop or create a ‘common cause’ for the players to be angry at in a bid to get them to perform better. It is best if this anger is directed at someone from outside the club.
In Ferguson’s case it can by the referees, the media or the general public. If you believe you have to work harder because everybody hates you and is against you, undoubtedly you will.
Ben, before race eight started, didn’t have this. He had thousands of Brits cheering him on from the sidelines. Everyone was backing him to win, something he admitted himself was frustrating.
He had no ‘siege mentality’. No sense of injustice, no sense of me against them. That was of course until Hogh-Christensen and PJ Postma ganged up on him.
“They won’t like me when I’m angry,’ said Ainslie. He was right.