Valentin MANKIN, the only in Olympic history to win gold medals in three different classes, believes his sport is a never-ending learning experience.
"Sailing teaches valuable life experiences. Even when I won the gold medal in Mexico , I realized that I could still do better,"
said the man who has three Olympic gold medals and one silver.
The 2008 Beijing Olympics is the 11th Olympic Games in which he has participated as a competitor or a coach, having won his first gold medal in the Finn in 1968, a second gold medal in 1972 in the Tempest, a silver in the Tempest in 1976 and his third gold at the age of 41 in the Star in 1980 when he was competing for the Soviet Union.
His NOC boycotted the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, making it the only Games since 1964 that MANKIN has not attended. As the Russian sailing coach in 1988, MANKIN helped his team capture a gold and silver medal.
From 1992, in Barcelona, through 2008, in Qingdao, MANKIN has worn the Italian uniform at the Olympics.
"I like teaching. I am happy when they have success. I would pay to do this if I were very rich. I love to see people smiling. I love life,"
he said. "I wish everybody success, but don't forget the Italians, my team."
A true sportsman, MANKIN has never filed a protest. "In my career, I had four filed against me and I won all of them. My father always said, 'do what you want, but make sure that you can sleep well."
The only man who has more Olympic gold medals in sailing is Denmark's Paul ELVSTRÖM
"He is still my idol,"
said MANKIN. "I have made a lot of friends and have a lot of good memories. I am especially fond of him."
ELVSTROM is one of only three Olympians to win the same individual event four times in a row and appeared in eight or more separate Games from 1948. In his final two Olympic appearances he sailed the Tornado with his daughter, Trine. They were the only father and daughter team ever to compete together in an Olympic event.
Read more on sailing's Olympic history here.