When Olympic champion Sir Ben Ainslie returned to his old school in Truro it was a chance to finally turn his back on demons that had haunted him since his youth.
Sir Ben "lifted a whole host of bad memories" when he came to open a multi-million pound sports centre named after him at Truro School.
On BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs yesterday Sir Ben spoke of how he was bullied as a youngster at the school and how his return to Truro had helped him to come to terms with his childhood experiences.
Now a four-time Olympic gold medallist, Sir Ben, 36, said being bullied had spurred him on to success.
He told interviewer Kirsty Young that he had a skin allergy as a child that led to him being picked on.
He said: “When I was younger it also unfortunately covered my face, that’s perfect for most kids to have a bit of a go at.
“I guess that made me quite a sensitive soul and I did struggle with that. It was very upsetting at times. I think it drew me back a little bit and I think that made me quite reserved and very very shy.”
When asked if he was “actively bullied” at school Sir Ben replied: “Yeah I was at times and that made certain periods of my school life a very difficult period, you know, it was, and I think the great thing for me was finding sailing and that gave me an outlet and gave me a lot of confidence as well.”
Sir Ben, who learned to sail at Restronguet Sailing Club, found his fortunes turned around at school when he became world champion aged 15.
“All of a sudden my classmates were looking around in complete disbelief and afterwards they said we knew you were really into sailing but didn’t realise you were any good at it. Suddenly then there was an element of respect there and that changed things for me,” he said.
Sir Ben said the experience of being bullied gave him “a huge desire to be successful”. He is the most successful Olympic sailor ever and in last year's America's Cup he turned a 1-8 defeat into a 9-8 win for the US.
He said the return to Truro School in October last year had been cathartic for him.
He said: “I have to say I went back to the school because they opened a new sports hall in my name and so I went back recently.
“I have to say going back was great and in many ways for me it sort of lifted a whole host of bad memories from school going back there and actually it’s not so bad and maybe it wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it was and certainly I would hate anyone to think there is anything negative about the school as such.”
Truro School headteacher Andrew Gordon-Brown said: “It was a pleasure and a privilege to meet Sir Ben last October when he came to open the new Sir Ben Ainslie Sports Centre.
“I was delighted to be able to show Ben around the Truro School of today and hear him talk about how impressed he was at how the school has developed.”
Sir Ben chose music ranging from I’m Still Standing by Elton John to Nimrod from Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations to take with him on the desert island.
If the discs were washed away and he could be left with only one he said he would like that to be Louis Armstrong’s It’s a Wonderful World.