Aucklander Tom Ashley built on the experience he gained in finishing 10th in his first Olympic Games, in Athens in 2004, to win the Mistral (boardsailing) gold medal in 2008.
By the time he got to Hong Kong, where the 2008 Olympic yachting competition was held, Ashley was clearly a man to watch. He’d foretold future greatness by taking the silver medal at the 2006 world championships.
In January 2008 he won the world title in his home waters off Takapuna. The previous year Ashley had won the gold medal at the Olympic test event after a tight battle with local Chinese sailor, Zhou. He also won big pre-Olympic regattas in France and Spain.
Before the 2008 games, he relocated to Valencia, using the Team New Zealand facilities, and virtually dropped off the radar while he went about the serious business of preparing for the Olympics.
He struck consistently good form in the Olympic regatta, peeling off finishes of 4-7-7-1-5-5-3-6-8-32-3. Going into the final race he was tucked into third place, but he was outstanding under pressure and deservedly won the gold medal.
Ashley started sailing at the tender age of eight. He attended Westlake Boys’ High School, which had already helped to produce two notable sailors, Chris Dickson and Dean Barker. The son of a sailmaker, Ashley had a relatively rapid rise to the top of windsurfing, but he grew up around boats and was often in a dinghy during his childhood.
For his 15th birthday, his parents surprised him with a windsurfer they bought off an international sailor who was in New Zealand training for the Sydney Olympics and couldn't afford to take the board with him.
Ashley has high hopes of defending his Olympic title at the 2012 London Olympics, but did not make the New Zealand team. The boardsailing spot went to another Aucklander, Jon-Paul Tobin in a close decision. At the 2011 world championships, in Perth, Tobin finished fifth and Ashley sixth, and it was probably that result that swayed to selectors to give the nod to Tobin ahead of the Olympic champion.
Ashley speaks six languages - English, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, German and French – the first three fluently.
Tom's Games History
Olympic Summer Games Beijing 2008
Medal Race 3rdRace 10 32ndRace 09 8thRace 08 6thRace 07 3rdRace 06 5thRace 05 5thRace 04 1stRace 03 7thRace 02 7thRace 01 4th1
Olympic Summer Games Athens 2004
Races 1:15 (3rd)Races 3:51 (18th)Races 2:37 (15th)Races 1:25 (8th)Races 3:28 (14th)Races 0:35 (3rd)Races 2:42Races 3:09 (17th)Races 0:26 (3rd)Final Race 1:50 (11th)Races 5:15