COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) Paul Elvstrom, a yachtsman who won four straight Olympic sailing gold medals between 1948 and 1960, has died, the Danish sports confederation said Thursday. He was 88.
Elvstrom, who was named Denmark's sportsman of the century in 1996, died Wednesday, the confederation said.
When Elvstrom stopped competing after the 1988 Seoul Olympics, he put an end to a 40-year career that took him to eight Olympics. He also won 13 world championships and seven European championships.
Elvstrom won his first gold medal in 1948 in the one-man Firefly class, and made the top of the Olympic podium again in the Finn class in 1952, 1956 and 1960.
''He was one of the all-time greatest,'' said Niels Nygaard, the president of the Danish sports confederation. ''He is the reason why Denmark positioned itself as a major power in sailing.''
Elvstrom's feat of Olympic titles wasn't matched until British sailor Ben Ainslie won four straight ending in 2012.
''Saddened to hear the legendary Paul Elvstrom has passed away. He was an inspiration to pretty much anyone who stepped foot on a sailing boat,'' Ainslie wrote on Twitter.
Elvstrom was highly regarded among his peers and was noted for once saying that ''you haven't won the race, if in winning the race you have lost the respect of your competitors.''
Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, an IOC member, called Elvstrom a ''beacon'' of the sport who ''revolutionized sailing with his tactical and technical skills, and was ahead of his time.''
In his last five years of competing, he raced with one of his four daughters, Trine Elvstrom-Myralf. In the Tornado class, father and daughter won two European championships and placed fourth at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Born in northern Copenhagen, Elvstrom trained as a mason, an architect and a real estate agent. In his later years, he struggled with Parkinson's disease.
In 2013, his daughter Trine told Danish newspaper BT that her father was ''trying to get going although it is not easy with the disease.''