As a professional boardsailor, Tom Ashley was used to setting the performance bar high. These days, he's still looking to raise the bar but in a different way.

For the past four years, he has been studying towards a Bachelor of Laws with honours at Auckland University.

After a disappointing exit from a promising Olympic career, when he missed out on the team for the London Olympics despite being defending champion, Ashley's focus switched to law which he admits helped fill the time.

"That's just sport," Ashley says of missing the London Olympics. "I don't have any regret about how that happened. I haven't sailed for fun or for training since I stopped. I haven't had any interest, not even to go out for a cruise or something like that. Law's always been my plan. It just took longer for me to get there than I expected."

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Enrolled in his final semester, Ashley will begin work next February with Auckland-based law firm Russell McVeigh. The position came about after a summer internship with the firm's commercial litigation department, although he says the role was "obviously nothing with too great a responsibility".

"I just applied for a job like everyone else. They do an internship programme over the summer, so I applied, got the internship and the job came from that."

Despite his new career path, there are strong hints to suggest Ashley's passion for boardsailing is not entirely gone. He's been coaching the Chinese windsurfing team this year with the aim of helping them at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

"Some of the competitors I used to sail against asked me to coach them," he says. "I've been away pretty much the whole year but it's managed to fit in with university.

"Occasionally I do some sailing with the athletes I coach, just if they need someone good to train against or to demonstrate stuff from time to time but, apart from that, I don't train or anything."

Fortunately for Ashley, Russell McVeigh are happy for him to split his time between the two professions from next year. But with this year being his last of university study, it's been a juggling act.

"The only thing I was able to do from overseas was my dissertation for honours, which was a nightmare because I didn't have access to the library at university. Normally you do it at the end of the degree, but they let me move it so it worked perfectly.

"At this point I'll probably work 50-50, or something like that. It's really lucky. The firm's really supportive and I think that will be a nice way to ease into my law career, which is definitely the priority."

With an amalgamation of law and coaching on the horizon for the next few years, Ashley admits spare days are hard to come by. But that's the way he likes it.

"I have no down time at all. As soon as I finish university or exams, I leave for China and then come back, usually the same day university starts, so it's pretty full on.

"But I love it. It's really cool to have interesting stuff to do and it's definitely rewarding."