And Press Articles

Champion rower Matthew Pinsent always wanted to cook a soufflé.

Olympic gold-medal rower entering uncharted political waters with IOC

Pinsent hits out at Beijing decision

Guardian Interview

Post-Lucerne 2000 interview

Boatman and Rowbin, our dynamic duo

BBC Online Interview Interview

Pinsent: Stroke of Genius

Out of the shadow of 'Sir You Know Who'

Pinsent lands in hot water for Henley 'punch'

Rowing: Pinsent to emerge from the shadows

Pinsent's passport hitch as Olympic stars return home

Champion rower Matthew Pinsent always wanted to cook a soufflé.

Huge forearms neatly floured, Matthew Pinsent looks slightly concerned at the state of his pastry case. Instead of being perfectly round, the short-crust dough has gone slightly "free form". Never mind, help is at hand from the teacher and, moments later, the triple Olympic gold medallist's creation is perfectly fitted inside a tin, ready to be covered with apple slices.

Pinsent's "coach" in this case is Sam Axtell, whose company, RealThyme, teaches people how to prepare a dinner party. Cooking is one thing, of course, but with the added pressure of six guests arriving and causing mass destruction, even the most experienced cook can suddenly find things going awry. Too many of us have left the sitting-room to check on the roast and found the kitchen full of smoke or squirmed with embarrassment as guests pick at under-cooked chicken and over-cooked vegetables, their polite smiles masking rising nausea.

Sam, 29, founded RealThyme in July after leaving the world of corporate finance. She wanted to find something that would allow her more time for children when she and her husband, James, decide to start a family. "I've always been passionate about food, so I thought of becoming a caterer or opening a restaurant, but I wanted to do something different," she says. "I also thought of teaching, but I liked the idea of people being able to eat what they've made in more relaxed surroundings than perched on a stool with just a fork."

So, with a Leith's cookery course under her belt, she founded RealThyme. Courses take place in the well-equipped professional kitchen of a school in west London and the optimum number of students is eight. Corporate events are also proving successful. There are vegetarian options, a very popular Thai course and themed evenings such as "Hot Date". The cooking should end at 9pm when the participants' guests arrive and the whole group sits down to eat in the adjoining dining-room.

Matthew Pinsent, whom Sam knows from Oxford, has almost finished his tart. "I enjoy cooking because I find it very relaxing," he says. He and his mates have opted for RealThyme's intermediate level. Tonight's menu consists of twice-baked soufflés, roast pheasant with all the trimmings and seasonal fruit tart, and tasks are divided between the students. Pasta is a staple for rowers, so it is definitely off the dinner-party menu.

"I wanted to do something that would stretch me a bit," says Matthew, putting the finishing touches to his apple tart. "I find cooking for myself a bit tedious, but I enjoy cooking for other people."

He and his fiancee, who is one of tonight's guests, love fish and so he is looking forward to learning new ways to cook it. That and gooey puddings. "I do have a sweet tooth and I made a sticky toffee pudding the other day. It was actually pretty amazing ," he says.

But what Matthew really wants to get to grips with, though, is a soufflé. And he's not alone. Ed Haddon, who works for the Body Shop, is also a soufflé man. "I've always wanted to be able to cook one, but never dared," he says. "The most important point, though, is to learn some tricks of the trade and to develop your self-confidence."

The atmosphere in the kitchen becomes a little more heated as the deadline approaches, but Sam and her team of two assist and reassure their charges. Finally, the guests arrive and everything works smoothly.

The class of four men do get slightly boisterous, but their real desire to learn and their delight at seeing the ingredients do what they should is obvious. Despite the noise and some boyish ribbing, Sam remains cool and authoritative.

It is only afterwards that Sam's husband James explains her secret: "She coxed for Matthew while they were at Oxford and so she is used to shouting at him and other big blokes and making them do what they're told."

Courtesy of The Daily Telegraph

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Olympic gold-medal rower entering uncharted political waters with IOC

'IT IS necessary to presuppose that all men are evil and that they are always going to act according to the wickedness of their spirits whenever they have free scope" - Niccolo Machiavelli, Florentine statesman, 1469-1527 (before the International Olympic Committee were invented).

New challenge: Matt Pinsent (right) will have to learn some different stokes when he joins the IOC Actually, Machiavelli is being kind. As Matt Pinsent is about to find out, the politics of the modern IOC makes the chicanery of 15th century Italy look like an innocent romp in a kindergarten. One would hesitate to put off Britain's most decorated active rower, as he stands poised on the brink of admission to one of the world's grandest clubs, but does he know what to expect?

A short recital of events in their recent history reveals: bribery and corruption to the extent that 10 members of the committee were replaced, either voluntarily or by forcible ejection. Plus: power struggles, drug smears, vote scandals, receipt of over-lavish hospitality, nepotism, cronyism, boycotts, protests, all presided over for 20 years by a man with fascist credentials once employed by Franco's junta.

"I know, I know," said Pinsent. "Of course, it is a bit of a greasy pole. But I think it's going to be fascinating, basically. Challenging as well."

Little did we know when he tumbled over the side of his rowing boat at the Sydney Olympics to be submerged under the murky water, he was actually giving us a preview of his next role in sport. Next year in Salt Lake City, at the outset of the Winter Olympics, he will be inducted on to the Athletes' Commission and given a seat on the IOC with full voting rights. "It's a pretty serious responsibility. I think I'll get a lump in my throat."

You hope for his sake it is put there by strong emotion and not the elbow of a fellow member. The manoeuvring of politics is very much less straightforward than propelling a boat down a river. What does Pinsent really know about the serpentine corridors of sports power at this level?

"Oh, absolutely nothing. You're dead right," he said, forthrightly. "At the same time it's quite important for me to go in without preconceptions. It's important that I shouldn't go in thinking everyone's out to get me or that there's intrigue in every corner. To be honest, I think the IOC would be shooting themselves in the foot if they create an Athletes' Commission and then don't try to live up to the expectations of those athletes.

"The athletes have ended up with serious amounts of power. We're full IOC members. That's 15 votes out of 123 which belong to the athletes. Anyone interested in a straight majority has got to be interested in us. It's a significant change from 10 years ago when all you could hear was: `What athletes? Who cares!' Now we can have a stamping fit in the corner and say: `No, you don't'!"

Stamping may work with Jacques Rogge, the new IOC president. You never know. He has a reputation for purity of purpose which is about as unusual as sighting a unicorn at the top of so vast an institution. But, as some have pointed out, including Andrew Jennings, the author of the damning book on the politics of the Olympics, The Lords of the Rings, Rogge has still appointed as his vice-president, a Russian, Vitaly Smirnoff, who received an official "serious warning" for his part in the Salt Lake City votes scandal.

Jennings also made the point that among Pinsent's colleagues on the committee will be a 23-year-old Saudi prince and Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, a 21-year-old relative of the ruler of Qatar, who clearly do not have the same gold-medalled background as the Olympic rower.

Regardless of the potential excellence of these two young members, Jennings has one piece of advice for Pinsent: "Be careful who you shake hands with and don't lend anyone any money."

It is truly a different world. Sir Steven Redgrave may have been irascible, grumpy and difficult on occasion but he never sold his place in the boat to a man with a suitcase from Salt Lake City. On the other hand, Pinsent has to believe in ideals. "I love the Olympics. They've been enough to motivate me for a decade. It would be strange if I got to the other side of the fence and thought: 'This is complete rubbish'.

"Sydney was such runaway success, it covered a lot of shaky, dodgy business. It's not squeaky clean. But I think that's just sports politics. It's not particular to the IOC. If I thought I could go into any world sports governing body and not be in a fairly dodgy world, then I'd be very naive.

"But that doesn't mean I believe the IOC is corrupt from top to bottom. The few people I know who work there - about six IOC members - I trust implicitly. It's not as though I look at Princess Anne and think: 'Gor blimey, she must be getting some serious brown envelopes.' It doesn't work like that with me. The people they thought were dirty dealing, they've chucked out."

Before Pinsent took on this responsible new role, he checked with the two most important sporting connections of his life: coach Jurgen Grobler and co-world champion, James Cracknell. "They both said: 'Go for it. It's too important for you, for rowing and for the country to say no'." But it does mean that come Athens 2004, Pinsent will be the only competing athlete to be doubled up (probably literally in the pairs rowing final) as an IOC member. What about the problems of 10,000 athletes converging on his bedroom door. "If they do, they'll get pretty short shrift," he said warningly.

In fact, the work may not be too onerous. He is required to attend one week-long congress per year until Athens and one other day-long event. The impact he can necessarily make at first will be limited. "In the beginning, I'm going to be staying fairly firmly in the flock, saying: 'I'm with them. Don't bully me,' hiding behind a big swimmer from Spain or whatever. I can't imagine myself being that ruthless that early.

"But as an athlete, it is tempting to go in there and say: 'You lot have made a right codswallop of all this'. But I think if I did, they'd say 'thank you and goodnight'." It is also a fact that athletes are not, per se, angelic. Jon Drummond, the American Olympic sprinter, for instance, appeared in court two months ago for carrying a quantity of marijuana through LA airport.

So Pinsent will tread softly. He knows politics is not his natural habitant. Although he has been an athlete's representative on the British Olympic Association for the past two years, he was never in the debating society at Eton and his degree was in geography, not spin doctoring. "Still, at least I know where Lausanne is," he said. He will be cautious because he holds dear a gigantic ambition, and one which seems to stand as much chance of fulfilment at this moment as Papua New Guinea winning the Olympic bobsled gold. Come to think of it, less chance.

"A London Olympic bid is something I passionately believe in. I'm only mandated until Athens so the bid is unlikely to get off Cloud Nine but in the longest possible term, I would like to see the Olympics come to Britain and inspire the next generation of runners and rowers and swimmers and all that."

One coughs and mentions Picketts Lock. Pinsent is pretty bullish, it must be said. "Yes, but do you think that is going to damage us in the long run? The vote for the 2012 Olympics doesn't take place until 2005. We're still four years away from people saying: 'Oh hang on, Britain made a complete codswallop of the World Athletics Championships'. Our chances of getting the 2012 Olympics won't be governed by Picketts Lock."

They might, of course, be governed by a shilly-shallying British government who began their term of office seeking to attract huge world sports events to these shores and then discovered they were obliged to actually provide stadiums and transport. A swift about turn of policy has transpired. It is amazing how popular grassroots have become.

Pinsent is undeterred. Sport is a field in which action is rewarded. He may be expecting sports politics to respond to stimuli in the same way. There are signs that the escalator to the world power moves a little more slowly. Juan Antonio Samaranch, the former IOC president, and Joao Havelange, the former FIFA president, reached the peak of their powers in their eighties. Perhaps Pinsent cannot wait that long. Nor does he have quite the right autocratic touch.

If Havelange, the Brazilian multi-millionaire, had ever sat in a rowing four, he would have laid on a golden poop deck while the other three fanned him with palm leaves. You feel there is too much of the team spirit on Pinsent to wield big influence like a axe.

He does, however, have a secret weapon. The golden boy, Sir Steven.

He is shocked you should even mention such a thing. "I can't turn up with Steve," he said hotly. "In some ways that's as insidious as Samaranch putting his mates on the IOC. I can't turn round and say: 'Let's all get Stevie boy on. He's a really good lad and he'll punch somebody's lights out if they're not behaving'. That's just a new generation of thug, isn't it?"

No, Sir Steven will be kept away from the vulgar fray. "I'll just sneer at him from the lofty heights," promised Pinsent.

At least those heights are now a little lower. Under the new Rogge regime, the IOC will resemble a little less the court of Louis XIV. "Yeah, well, I think Samaranch did turn his role into international diplomat-come-royalty," acknowledged Pinsent, who will not be expecting any gold watch or American educational scholarships for his future children when he steps off the plane in Utah. "I think I'll be lucky to get a bowl of fruit in the hotel room," he said.

We must wish him luck. There is a good omen. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founding father of the modern Olympics, was a rower. They buried his heart at Olympia in Greece when he died. Let's hope no one tries to do the same to our decent man before his time is up.

Courtesy of The Daily Telegraph>

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Pinsent hits out at Beijing decision

Triple Olympic champion Matthew Pinsent has condemned the choice of Beijing as host for the 2008 Games.

The British rower described the decision to take the Olympics to China as "shocking", in an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live.

Accusing the International Olympic Committee of mixing politics with sport, Pinsent was outspoken in his criticism of the selection process.

"Compared to Toronto or Paris, I think it's a shocking decision for a number of reasons," said Pinsent. "Purely from the athletes' point of view I think it was the wrong decision but we all know it wasn't chosen for that. The Chinese will look to make the most out of it as they possibly can politically but I think it's the wrong way round between carrot and stick."

Pinsent could potentially be aiming to emulate Sir Steven Redgrave and win a fifth Olympic gold in 2008 but he made it clear he is not looking forward to the prospect of competing in China.

"I think with human rights and more importantly from the sporting point of view, their sporting record, you've got to be saying we will give you the games if you do this," he said. "We will give you the games if you clean up your drug testing or your drugs record and the IOC blatently haven't done that. They've said 'here are the Games and we hope you will'. That's the cart before the horse."

Despite his concerns Pinsent has no doubt the Games will run smoothly but insists good organisation does not guarantee a successful event.

"It will be a good Games technically but Atlanta was a good Games technically," said Pinsent. "The venues were probably the best Olympic venues I've had but there was something missing between the venues and the village and the spirit. I think Beijing will always have a battle culturally to break down those barriers."

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Guardian Interview

As shadows go, Steve Redgrave cast a substantial one. His heroics projected his sport on to a new level, introduced it to a new audience, had the sponsors queuing round the block to throw something new at it: money.

After the Sydney Olympics, people who would not know their cox from their elbow knew who Steve Redgrave was and wanted a slice of him. But far from wilting, his long-term competitive partner Matthew Pinsent found that being in the Redgrave penumbra more than had its compensations.

"'I'm afraid Steve isn't available, would you like Matt instead?' I tell you what, that line has meant pretty good business for me," he says. "Corporate work, appearances, endorsements. 'Steve can't do it? Yup, I'm available.' That Vauxhall ad I did? They wanted Steve, he couldn't do it and our agent offered me. They said OK, and wrote it round me. It was an afternoon's work, I got a suitcase of money and a car."

Pinsent still bears the slightly astonished look of someone who wakes up one morning and discovers that sticky patch at the bottom of the garden is in fact an oil well.

But what is so engaging about him is he is not afraid to admit that, give or take the odd injudicious appearance on Gloria Hunniford's show, he has loved every moment of the Redgrave-driven fame that has come his way.

"We thought it might be big but we had no idea. It was completely off the scale," he says of the country's reaction to the returning Olympians last autumn. "I remember after Atlanta, Steve had gone to Disneyland with the kids, and there was me, Roger Black and Steve Backley - who'd just won silver.

We came off the plane and there were about half a dozen photographers, and the first question was: 'What does it feel like to be part of a disappointing British performance?' I thought, piss off, I've just won a gold medal.

"This time, it was like: 'All the gold medallists over here; silver and bronze collect your bags, we're not interested.' And we're filtered into this room, filled with media, 10 film crews, the works. It was nuts.

"Then we went through the sliding doors and there were just ordinary people, not catching planes, just wanting to be there. Hundreds of them. Going crazy. Asking for autographs."

It is hard to overstate what a surprise fans asking for an autograph is to a rower. "I went home," he continues, "and the phone began to ring. And I thought, well, it'll be over by Christmas. But the invites just kept coming."

Now, though, he has put an end to it. The Parkinson Show is obliged to look for other guests, the adverts have been delayed, the dinner jacket is at the dry cleaners. Pinsent is back rowing, facing a new challenge: not simply returning to the gruel of training and competing after sampling the life of a celebrity but doing so without Redgrave.

As he and another survivor from the Oarsome Foursome, James Cracknell, complete their preparations for the World Rowing Championships which begin next weekend in Lucerne, the rain is lashing down, thunder growls away from clouds so low one can almost pluck them from the sky.

That is familiar territory for a British rower out training, one might think, except that this is August and Pinsent is with the team on camp in the south of France. "Oh, you hardly notice it when you're out on the water," he says.

The very fact the team is spending a fortnight in France shows the way in which rowing has developed since the arrival of Lottery funding and sponsorship. When Pinsent first made the British team in 1989, foreign camps were a once-a-season luxury.

Now warm-weather training is a given, as is the pair of medics extracting blood from his ear lobe after training sessions and monitoring it through expensive equipment to check his stamina levels are up for the task ahead.

They will need to be. He and Cracknell have entered two disciplines - the coxed and the coxless pairs - whose finals are within two hours of each other next week. As anyone who has seen the pained faces of the competitors when they finish the Boat Race will appreciate, it is an insult to the body to compete in one rowing event, never mind two within a couple of hours.

"I certainly didn't come up with the idea," Pinsent says. "It was James and Jürgen [Grobler, his coach]. But the moment they mentioned it, I thought, yeah it sounds quite good fun, that."

But two hours apart? "When we saw the timetable, we thought, well, if we say we are going to do these things, we can't have a stamping fit about the length of the gap between them."

Interestingly, a double gold at the world championships is about the only thing Redgrave never achieved. Was Pinsent motivated to turn himself into the Marion Jones of rowing by the thought that he could lay the ghost of his old partner at the first opportunity?

"As much as I say: 'Look, whatever Steve's record is, I'm not going to go out there and attack it,' no one will believe me," he says.

"I think that's the baggage I've got to get used to carrying. In any case, even if I went out there and won five or six Olympics, it shouldn't detract from what Steve did."

Aha, Freudian slip or what: "or six". "There you go, you see," he says. "No, I'm not in it to try and compete with Steve. I'm in it for my own sense of achievement. He's not my yardstick."

So why is he going for the double? Is he just an inveterate masochist? Or did he need to remind himself forcibly, after the hedonistic round of post-Sydney celebration, that this was the day job?

"Ah, yeah, but I think that's a different point," he says. "We do need challenges now. And I think this will be a really good way to light the fire under our arses."

As anyone who saw the BBC documentary about the rowers' return from Sydney will know, competitiveness is at the core of Pinsent's make-up. There was one great scene in that film, in which he was beaten by Cracknell for the first time in head-to-head combat on an indoor rowing machine.

As much as he tried to maintain his dignity in defeat, you could see he was eaten up by it. It is that competitive streak which sees him through a sport which he likens to banging his head against a wall: he goes faster to stop the pain quicker. So where does it come from?

"Eton and Oxford. I'm not exactly driven by an urge to get out of the ghetto," he laughs. "Ever since I can remember I've always wanted to win at things. And rowing engenders and treasures that.

When you look round on the start-line, you want that in your team-mates. But I think I pick and choose now. I learned that from Steve. First four or five years I wanted to beat him at everything. After a while I gradually began to realise he was letting me beat him at things. I guess you get older and wiser and think, well actually, there's nothing at stake in this particular game of cards."

As well as channelling his competitive aggression he is also doing something else he can never have expected when he first engaged in the sport: making a handsome living. Does the money make it easier?

"Yup, yeah," he admits. "It's easier to justify it. I think my parents can accept now that after spending a lot of money on my education I have a proper job. I remember my mum asking me when I'd just won my first Olympic gold was I now going to settle down. But one thing money doesn't do is motivate.

"Camelot have come in and said, we want to give you a lot of bonuses if you win. Well, that's lovely, but when you're out there on the water, I can assure you, it's not the bonuses you're thinking of nor that make you want to win."

Besides, he adds, we should not get the impression that every international rower is matching the Premiership footballer for spare cash. "There are four Olympic champions in our eight but they haven't signed decent sponsorship deals," he says.

"The difference in earning power between me and James is fairly extreme. But between James and the rest of the team, it's huge. That's what we've got to work at."

In the course of a chat on everything from the state of school sport ("try telling an Australian there's only 15 minutes of sport on the national curriculum if you want to see somebody laugh") to his attempts to read War and Peace on training camps ("three times I've tried, never got anywhere; I'm just a lazy arse") it is clear Pinsent has all the mental equipment to step comfortably out of the Redgrave shadow.

Articulate, self-confident, relaxed: he will be a shoo-in for a media career once he pops his oars back in the boathouse. Others, though, have suggested bigger things: politics, for instance.

"You're joking," he says. "I couldn't ever go into any pursuit where you're not in control of your own destiny. Politics seems to me the worst for that. You can do your best, then the next day you get shafted. Look at Kate Hoey. For me she did an absolutely brilliant job, then she was gone. Well, if that's the business, count me out."

And the way he talks about it, it makes rowing 2,000 metres at top speed twice in two hours, pushing his cardio-vascular system to its very limits as he goes, seem an easy life after all.

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Post-Lucerne 2000 interview

A few months ago Redgrave, 38, and Pinsent, 30 next month, looked certs for gold. Though they won their last two as a coxless pair, the switch to a four with Tim Foster, 30, and James Cracknell, 28 appeared to have been a smooth transition.

But months of unbeaten global domination ended with a shock hammering at the hands of Australia, New Zealand and Italy in July. Suddenly the dream was in danger.

Pinsent recalls: "Immediately after Lucerne we planned to have a week away and we did - so we didn't have a chance to discuss it straight away.

"Then we got back together and we sat down and worked out what went wrong. We basically didn't row well, which is unlike us. We were having problems on the water technically which cost us the race.

"It boiled down to keeping that defeat in perspective. We stuck to the plans we had put in place years ago.

"Defeat was a shock to begin with, but the disappointment was tinged with a feeling that we're not going to just roll over and see the end of Steve's fairy tale.

"So we just dug in. We were angry. First we had a week training at home in Henley, then we did high altitude training in Austria before the pre-Olympic camp at the Gold Coast and we never really lost that intensity.

"Perhaps we were too complacent in Lucerne. Perhaps we thought we couldn't lose. It won't happen again.

"We've been rowing well, but even with a speedometer in the boat during training, you don't really know how you're doing until you race side by side with the others. That's why we're all here!

"I'd be surprised if the others have written us off after Lucerne."

The much-publicised pre-Olympic television documentary has put the oarsome foursome in the spotlight, but Pinsent and crew have managed to stay out of the spotlight for the final weeks of their build up.

Pinsent admits: "We were cut off from the focus in Austria and in the Gold Coast we were protected for a lot of the time.

"But the documentary showed everybody the impact all this has had on Steve's life."

Redgrave, who left the boat in Atlanta famously saying "If I ever go near a boat again shoot me", has had bouts of colitis and been diagnosed with diabetes in the four years since the last success.

Things got so bad he was nearly dropped from the four at the end of last year when Ed Coode, 26, Cracknell and Redgrave were battling for the two bowside seats.

Pinsent says: "It was quite a shock when we realised what was happening. Selection in rowing is tough. It just doesn't just work on one machine."

With former East German coach Jurgen Grobler refusing to allow sentiment to cloud his judgement, Redgrave was forced to prove himself worthy of the seat.

Pinsent recalls: "When Steve had problems, he kept them to himself. But we always knew when he regained his strength he was the man we had to have in the boat.

"When you look at Steve's record, when you step back, you realise the breadth of his achievement.

"I would not have the medals I have without Steve.

"Will I go for five Olympics? Should Steve carry on? The lesson we learnt from Atlanta is not to commit yourself."

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Boatman and Rowbin, our dynamic duo

Matthew Pinsent lives in the shadow of a super hero. Though he has won two Olympic gold medals (which is one more than the entire Great Britain team managed four years ago in Atlanta), he is merely Rowbin.

Steve Redgrave is Boatman, the Caped Crusader, with all the wealth and fame that four gold medals can bring.

Britain's coxless four - shockingly beaten into fourth place at the World Cup in Lucerne two months ago - begin their campaign for a record fifth successive gold medal early tomorrow at the notoriously difficult former gravel pit at Penrith. Pinsent shrugs like the Riddler: "It doesn't matter what happens in Sydney, Steve should be remembered as the greatest Olympian who ever lived. He beats all the others hands down.

"Other countries realise what we've got almost more than we do. It's unfair his legacy will be decided here. It's a load of tosh to judge him on one peformance."

Then he's The Joker: "It's not as if I wake up every morning, look at Steve and say: Good morning super hero!

"It's not dark in Steve's shadow, there's a lot of limelight there. I'm the one the team wanted to carry the flag. I'm the one out here speaking to you. So I'm not complaining."

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BBC Online Interview

If anyone else had won three consecutive Olympic gold medals, it would have been headline news. But when Matthew Pinsent achieved this notable feat, he was somewhat overshadowed by the escapades of a certain Mr S Redgrave and his five Olympic titles.

Like Redgrave, Pinsent needed downtime after the euphoria of Sydney to rest and reassess.

Celebrations at Sydney

Unlike his team-mate, who chose to retire, Pinsent has recently decided to press on and aim for Athens 2004. As a child, Pinsent felt his career would be in the army. However, sport took an early hold. He began rowing at school and by the age of 18, had made his international debut in the eight at the World Junior Rowing Championships.

A year later, in 1988, he won the first of a long line of gold medals in the junior coxless pair, ironically with Tim Foster, who shared Olympic glory with him later on at Sydney 2000. Every year since, Pinsent has won a World or Olympic medal.

After leaving Eton, Pinsent went on to study Geography at Oxford, where, unsurprisingly, he became involved in the rowing scene and won the Boat Race twice.

A major turning point in his career came in 1990 when he teamed up with Steve Redgrave in the coxless pair. Pinsent had his doubts over teaming up with Redgrave, already a legend in the sport with two Olympic titles to his name.

He said, "If we had won, it would be because of Steve. If we lost, it would be down to me. My career would have been over before it had really started."

But the partnership was a success - their first major honour was a bronze in the World Championships later that same year. The pair went from strength to strength during 1991; they were unbeaten all year and became world champions in the process. Matthew then won his first Olympic gold partnering Steve in Barcelona in 1992. It was a massive achievement as their preparations had been disrupted by Redgrave's ill heath in the run-up to the Games.

World domination

As his rowing career blossomed, Pinsent took a year out from his studies. When he returned to finish his degree after Barcelona, he became President of the Oxford University Boat Club. To this day, he maintains contact with his old University by returning to coach crews.

Redgrave and Pinsent's domination of their sport continued; going into the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 they had been unbeaten for four years, gathering world titles and a new world record as they went along.

On winning another Olympic title, Redgrave made his famous "shoot me if you see me in a boat again," statement, throwing the partnership into doubt. But he had a rethink and the pair embarked on a new challenge - the coxless four.

The new crew started as they meant to go on, unbeaten in the World Cup series in 1997 and becoming World Champions.

The four remained unbeaten until just before the Olympics when they were surprisingly defeated at Lucerne. The four - Redgrave, Pinsent, Tim Foster and James Cracknell - remained confident and with half the nation watching on TV, they took gold at Sydney with the narrowest of margins.

With Redgrave choosing retirement at the age of 38, Pinsent took time to reach his decision. He was tempted by the opportunity to become a TV commentator but in February announced that he would continue rowing in the hunt for a fourth Olympic gold.

He says, "There is a bit of me that wants to figure out if I can do it without Steve. I want to prove myself to myself."

Courtesy of BBC Online

Back to the top Interview

Matthew Pinsent had his first taste of Olympic Gold at the age of only 21, when he, together with partner Sir Steven Redgrave, won the GOLD MEDAL for the Coxless Pairs at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Prior to that Olympic win, he and Redgrave had enjoyed an unbeaten international season, with wins at Cologne, Duisburg, Henley and Lucerne and it was already obvious that Matthew was developing well under the aegis of Redgrave, already recognised as the world's greatest oarsman.

The Atlanta Olympics in 1996 saw another GOLD MEDAL triumph for the Pinsent/Redgrave duo and their seemingly invincible combination also brought them SEVEN World Championship Golds throughout the nineties, plus a World Record for the Coxless Pairs in Lucerne (1994) and the Olympic record in Atlanta.

The scene was set most dramatically for the Millennium Olympics in Sydney when Pinsent and Redgrave (now a Coxless Four with James Cracknell and Tim Foster) were surprisingly beaten into fourth place in the Lucerne World Cup in July - their first ever failure.

However, on 23rd September the team's absolute commitment and talent once again won through with Pinsent's THIRD OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL (and Redgrave's FIFTH) in the final of the Coxless Four.

Throughout the 1999 and 2000 seasons, Redgrave had consistently praised Pinsent as "the best oarsman in the World" and Pinsent had consistently replied to the often asked question about being in Redgrave's shadow by declaring:- "It's not particularly dark in steve's shadow. I get more recognition and respect having won 3 Olympic gold medals than he did winning 4. It's a testament to the level that rowing has got to in the last 4 years."

Mutual admiration and respect has been the hallmark of this magnificent partnership, which has taken both to the highest level of sporting achievements.

In 1992, Matthew Pinsent graduated in Geography from St Catherine's College, Oxford, where he was President of the Oxford Rowing Club. He took part in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race in 1990 and 1991, where Oxford beat Cambridge by substantial distances.

He is an experienced motivational speaker with his own style of humour and has spoken at many conferences and dinners for companies such as Canada Life, IBM, British Telecom, Nokia, Manulife and Lombard.

Matthew Pinsent was awarded the MBE in the 1993 New Year's Honours List.

Q. What does it feel like to win?

A. If I could describe the feeling it wouldn't be worth doing! Suffice to say it's amazing, fired, ecstatic, emotionally drained and relieved - all at the same time.

Q. Is your medal real gold?

A. No, the medals are silver with gold plate.

Q. Do you have a special diet?

A. No, not unless we're away at camp or immediately before a big race. Day to day I'm far too lazy and it's an area I know I'm going to have to improve.

Q. How much do you train?

A. 16 sessions a week, each session lasts for approximately 1½ hours and that's 7 days a week.

Q. Are you going to retire or do more than 5 golds?

A. At this stage I'm enjoying the break from racing and training, trying to sit on the fence about the future. I like the idea of going on but there are lots of early mornings, lots of training between now and Athens. I'm 70:30 in favour of carrying on but at the moment the duvet is very nice in the mornings.

Q. Are you jealous of Steve?

A. It really annoys me when I get asked this. Steve and I have had a brilliant relationship both on and off the water for 10 years and we couldn't have done what we have without each other, a good friendship and most of all Tim, James and Ed most recently. When we win I'm happy for myself but also for the guys around me. As 'Gold Fever,' the BBC documentary shows we work harder than most as a team - so we enjoy success as a team.

Q. Which is your favourite medal?

A. Sydney has a special place because it's so prominent in my mind now and it had a fairytale quality with Steve's achievement and the end of the coxless four's efforts. But Barcelona has an appeal - it was when I knew I was an Olympic Champion. Atlanta was good because it was our last international 2000m race in the pair and signified the achievement of winning the pairs race on the circuit for 4 straight years. I think no other combination or crew has managed that - you tell me.

Q. What are you doing now?

A. Being very, very busy!

Q. What have you enjoyed the most since the Sydney games?

A. 1 The reception of the people back home has been fantastic.

A. 2 The Chris Evans show on Virgin

A. 3 Putting my gold medal round Tiger Wood's neck and him being pleased about it.

Q. What did you feel about Steve winning sports Personality of the Year?

A. I am delighted that Steve has ended his rowing career with an outstanding award. I am happier than any award to have received the tribute handed to me by such a great Olympian and good friend - I personally feel this has been the best review ever.

Courtesy of

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Pinsent: stroke of genius

This may seem absurd, but at the moment of crisis, when the Italians were closing fast, Matthew Pinsent exploded. His crew were tiring - the British were only fourth fastest over the final 500 metres - and there were still 100 metres left. Suddenly something happened in the stroke seat. Pinsent went puce and every fibre in his exhausted, massive frame stood out. The puddle of water carved out by his blade seemed to swell; the boat appeared to quiver beneath the strain. The best rower in the world was bringing his boat in.

Of course, it must have been a false impression. The old guy behind him was still there. The other half of the partnership - Ann Redgrave refers to the relationship between her husband and Pinsent as a 'marriage' - was doing his bit.

So were the others: Tim Foster and James Cracknell, whose roles of babes in the boat had invigorated the senior partners by giving them responsibility. Pinsent and Redgrave were not just married; they were parents as well with fresh talent to nurture.

But it was surely Pinsent who brought them home. False impression or not on the water, he has been the outstanding character of these Olympics. Redgrave has the Nobel prize for achievement. Pinsent has been his power.

It was even Pinsent who, once the water had calmed and the gold-medal tally on board had risen to 10, provided the show-stealing nugget that we shall all remember.

In Atlanta, Redgrave had told the world to shoot him if he ever went near a boat again. 'I've had enough,' he said. Now in Sydney it was Pinsent, still bright red in the face, who set the tone. He undid his foot-straps and climbed over an obliging Tim Foster to embrace his partner of the past nine years. And then he fell overboard.

When they first came together, Pinsent was just 19 years old. Redgrave was already a double Olympic champion. But he needed someone new. Andy Holmes had retired after Seoul, and his most recent partner, Simon Berrisford, had been forced to quit because of a serious back injury.

The world's most driven, irascible oarsman from Marlow, who'd left comprehensive school at 16, was about to come calling on the teenager fresh out of Eton and on his way to Oxford. The early pictures of Pinsent reveal someone impossibly fresh-faced and jug-eared.

'I thought it might be the poisoned chalice. I wasn't sure at the time how much there was in it for me,' Pinsent would say later. 'If we won it would be because of Steve. If we lost, it would be down to me. My career might have been over before it had really started.'

He took the risk and the legend began, if not immediately. The new pair took bronze at the World Championships in Tasmania in 1990. 'It took time to get it right. But something had happened even though we only finished third. We turned to each other and both said we could do a lot better than this.'

They became even more obsessive. Next year they won gold at the Worlds. Pinsent was a picture of exhilaration and exhaustion at the end of the race in Vienna, mouth agape in ecstatic agony.

But not long afterwards, before the Barcelona Games, there came a different sort of agony for his partner. Redgrave, the great indestructible ox of an athlete, went down with colitis.

'Matthew was so loyal,' says Ann Redgrave. 'He was obviously desperate to go to his first Games, and here he was, not knowing if Steve would recover in time.'

Pinsent gave him time. Jurgen Grobler, their new coach in '92 gave him time. And of course, Redgrave recovered and they won by a full five seconds in the final.

Pinsent was now treated by Redgrave as an equal. They made a joint, public pledge. 'We said in Barcelona that we were going to Atlanta to defend the coxless pairs. That was the marker we laid down for all the others.' Between the Olympics of 1992 and 1996 they did not lose a single race. But expectation took its toll. Most obviously on Redgrave. 'When he made that statement about shooting him straight after the race,' said Pinsent, 'I thought he may have been a bit strong. But there had been no celebration when we crossed the line, no joy. Just relief. The whole thing was an incredible strain. I knew how Steve felt.'

With his partner retired, Pinsent had the pick of the fleet. He was the dream ticket in any boat. And then one day he went to see Grobler and the German coach told him that Redgrave was thinking of making a comeback.

'I took it for granted we would row together, but as soon as I spoke to him, I knew it would be in a new boat. Not the pair. We'd gone as far as we could and were fed up of being the target for everyone in the world. It was time to build a new crew, start at the bottom of the ladder and enjoy knocking other people off on the way up.'

It was on this way up that Pinsent began to soar. Redgrave's road to Sydney was a constant battle with his new illness, diabetes. Tim Foster had his hand injury and then the operation on his back. James Cracknell lost the plot for a time after strains in his personal life.

But as long as Pinsent was sound there was a chance that the dream might come true. He grew only stronger, beating records whenever he seemed to go near the testing machines.

So, what was going on in that last hundred metres? 'It wasn't very pretty, but I was never in any doubt that we would win. It was very gutsy, very painful.'

How painful? 'Yeah, the legs were hurting. The lungs ... but I wasn't thinking there was anything wrong. I just kept thinking, "I wish the Italians weren't there."' They were there, and they very nearly didn't go away. But the finest rower in the world went red in the face and the boat surged one last time and he drove his crew into the history books. And at the press conference afterwards, while Redgrave talked of the worst of the dark diabetes days of last winter, Pinsent reached for one of the tape recorders placed on the table before them and turned the cassette over. He didn't want anyone to miss out on the legend of his best mate, his partner.

And what now for Pinsent? 'The motivation to win another Olympic gold medal is there,' he said, 'but I've still got to make the decision. To say I'm going to Athens and win, or Timbuktu and win, is just crazy.'

Courtesy of The Guardian

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Out of the shadow of 'Sir You Know Who'

A WORD of advice should you ever find yourself taking lunch at the River Cafe; this Thameside restaurant by Hammersmith Bridge is where the celebrity elite meet to eat, so if you want to make a dramatic entrance, choose your companion with care. Arrive with Martine McCutcheon, say, the new West End star of My Fair Lady, and you are liable to be trumped by someone who has brought along Madonna. Or sashay smugly through the front door flanked by Dale Winton and Keith Chegwin and you may cringe with embarrassment when you spot Al Pacino and Robert De Niro ordering risotto and a bottle of Pinot Grigio over in the far corner.

Ah, but invite Matthew Pinsent and you are guaranteed the kind of reflected glory enjoyed by a film starlet emerging from a limo on the arm of Tom Cruise on Oscar night; waiters and waitresses swoop from every angle, even the River Cafe's two illustrious chefs, Rose Gray and Ruth Rodgers, make a rare public appearance from their beloved kitchen when news of the triple Olympic gold medallist's presence reaches backstage.

With his rosy-red cheeks which give him the appearance of a permanently blushing schoolboy, it is impossible to tell if Pinsent is embarrassed by the sensation he has caused.

"I've never seen an Olympic gold medal, what's it like?" sighs one of the front desk meeters-and-greeters breathlessly. "Well, I think we can put that right," grins Pinsent, reaching into the plastic bag in which he carries his three treasured mementoes. "Which one would you like to see?" he asks, displaying the fruits of Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney in his great paw before the awe-struck lass.

Britain's second-most famous rower (which makes him very famous, indeed), Pinsent has become accustomed to such scenes since September last year when he famously celebrated his third Games triumph by taking an unrehearsed dip after victory in the coxless fours. He has appeared on everything from A Question of Sport to the National Lottery Live, and next Saturday will be in a BBC launch alongside Sir What's-His-Name (I have decided that we should try to negotiate lunch without once mentioning the 'R' name) when Oxford and Cambridge contest the University Boat Race. He will also present 'the pot', as he calls it, to the victorious captain.

As he finally assumes his seat and peruses the menu, behind his broad shoulders looms the curious outline of the Harrods Depository, past which Pinsent rowed three times in the dark blue of Oxford, twice as a winner.

So does he harbour ambitions of winning a fourth, fifth and sixth Olympic gold medal, thereby eclipsing his now-retired sidekick from the record books?

"I'm going for a fourth in Athens," is all he will commit himself to at his present age of 30. "I'm 12 months younger than Steve was when he won his third gold but I feel a lot older than he looks now. Steve proved two things; one of which is that you can do five, but the other is that six is well-nigh impossible given that it covers a period of 20 years. And having seen what he had to go through over the past four years, it kind of puts you off.

"Watching your kids having to wait for Dad to finish his rowing championships before you can go on holiday - and only getting three weeks' holiday a year when Dad wasn't rowing - those are the kind of prices you have to pay; it would be madness, therefore, for me to sit here over some fabulous food and a few glasses of wine - both of which I greatly enjoy - and say I'm going to go to Athens and then I'm going to do this and that."

Without you-know-who sitting behind him henceforth, did Pinsent not consider making it a dual retirement rather than risk 'the legend' by experiencing a possible defeat in Athens come 2004?

"No. For very different reasons, Sydney had a fairytale quality about it for all four of us. It was the best Olympics in history; the lead-up, the race, the atmosphere. We just thought, 'wow! We can't imagine rowing ever being a bigger story than this'. So there was no point in giving up because no matter what happens in my future sporting career, it can never change the impact we made in Sydney.

"Just because we might not win in Athens doesn't mean we shouldn't bother going. Before Sydney, I think both Steve and I thought, 'yawn, yeah we've done winning', but the aftermath has been jaw-dropping. It truly was a life-changing experience."

But surely Pinsent's first gold medal in the coxless pairs at Barcelona in 1992 provided an even more precious memory. "That's what I'd always imagined, but I was wrong. Winning is a weird experience; one minute you're bouncing off the ceiling, the next you're manic depressive. Why manic depressive? Because it's over; we did some fantastic things once our final was over, we climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, we went on ferry rides, we watched a lot of the other events, but it is impossible to shake off the feeling as you cross the finish line that 'life doesn't get any better than this'. Then it dawns on you, if life doesn't get any better than this, what happens tomorrow?"

What happens tomorrow (or what will most certainly happen as Athens hoves into view) is that in the eyes of the nation, Pinsent will become 'Son-of-Sir-Steve', the man who will bear the burden of becoming the focus of Britain's Olympic challenge. Is that a prospect which inspires or terrifies?

"I don't necessarily feel that the burden of expectation will be any greater than I am normally used to. Being favourite, being expected to win, being one of our leading gold medal prospects is not new; what's new is not having to share those burdens with Steve. But that hasn't taken me by surprise. I never thought he would carry on past Sydney no matter what anyone else said. Then again, I never thought he would carry on past Atlanta. So yes, although the tabloid headlines may be the 'Son-of-Steve' tosh, that's something which is beyond my control."

And if he were finally to row off into the sunset with six golds around his neck, is he prepared for the unpopularity that feat could inspire among those who revere The Great One and who do not wish to see someone go one better? "Who was that guy who beat Babe Ruth's home run record? Hank Aaron, yeah that's right. He was vilified by some people. But I seem to recall him saying something like, 'I don't want you to forget Babe Ruth, I just want you to remember Hank Aaron'.

"The fact that Steve gets more publicity than me has never worried me in the slightest. The fact is, I now get more publicity for having won three than Steve did having won four. And that's testament to him having broken new ground in '84 and '88, the two of us pushing on together in '92 and '96, and then the four of us taking it by the scruff of the neck in Sydney."

To someone who has achieved so much in the Olympic arena, will he not view the forthcoming University Boat Race with the patronising smile of a dad watching his four-year-old son imitating his shaving routine in the bathroom mirror?

"Not at all. The Boat Race is like the Grand National, isn't it? It's an event unique to Britain. The two crews will have put themselves through physical hell and back for not a penny reward and, until certain people started bringing home fistfuls of Olympic golds, the Boat Race was as much publicity as you could get in rowing. I remember as a student thinking, 'wow! This is cool'. It still exerts an irresistible appeal over the entire nation, probably because they're the last true blue - Dark Blue and Light Blue - amateurs on a world stage. I love it, especially when Oxford win, of course."

At this point, another waitress enquires politely if she could see the treasures lying in Pinsent's carrier bag. Her eyes widen in sheer wonderment. I have to say that even to a cynical old hack, it is impossible to hold an Olympic gold medal in your palm without feeling the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. So what is it like actually to wear one?

"Well, I don't walk about the house with the three of them hanging down my chest; my girlfriend would find that hilarious. They're lovely to have and they're the most tangible evidence of your success but I think they mean more to other people than they mean to us, if that doesn't sound weird. It almost gives you more pleasure showing them to other people; I remember when we met Tony Blair, he took one look and said, 'let me go and get Cherie so I can show her'. It always staggers me how powerful they are. They're show-stoppers."

Pinsent is the real show-stopper; the Queen's sword may have descended upon the shoulder of Sir Steve Redgrave (there you are, I've finally mentioned the name), but there is not, I would hazard, a knightlier paladin in world sport than the young man with whom he used to share a boat.

Courtesy of The Daily Telegraph

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Pinsent lands in hot water for Henley 'punch'

MATTHEW Pinsent, the double Olympic Gold medal rower, was reprimanded by the chairman of Henley regatta after twice punching the air at the finish of a tense semi-final race.

Pinsent was competing in the Stewards' Cup for coxless fours at Henley when his Leander team defeated the Olympic champions from Australia after an epic struggle. Just before the winning post and, as the team was passing the stewards' enclosure, Pinsent raised an arm in triumph and then did the same again just after the line. The gesture was seen by Mike Sweeney, regatta chairman, who was umpiring from the race launch.

Mr Sweeney admonished Pinsent, who had gone against the etiquette of Henley by raising his fist a few strokes from the line and while the team was in front of the stewards' enclosure. Mr Sweeney said: "I thought it was a juvenile action on Matt's part and totally unnecessary."

No official action was taken against Pinsent but he acknowledged that his gesture had been an "instinctive reaction" to the tension of the race on Saturday. But in the final yesterday, Pinsent kept his hands firmly on the oars until after his Leander club team, which also included Steve Redgrave, James Cracknell and Tim Foster, had won the final of the Stewards' Cup.

The fact that Pinsent, who has won two Olympic Gold medals with Steve Redgrave, was criticised by Mr Sweeney shows the strict adherence which is expected to Henley's customs.

The race between the Olympic champions, from Melbourne University, and the Leander Club had been eagerly anticipated by Britain's rowers since the Australians, known as the "Oarsome Foursome," announced that they would be competing at Henley specifically to take on Pinsent's team.

Regatta officials said no official action was to be taken against Pinsent for his display, which must rate as mild when seen alongside acts of petulance witnessed in other sports.

Courtesy of The Daily Telegraph

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Rowing: Pinsent to emerge from the shadows

WHEN MATTHEW Pinsent went overboard and into the cold, dark depths of Penrith Lakes he had been trying to embrace the exhausted hero of the day, Steve Redgrave.

Those who know Pinsent, who happened to be collecting his own third Olympic Gold, will tell you that he would value Redgrave's glory as much as his own. Pinsent is the unsung powerhouse of the coxless fours.

He is the understated, 29-year-old, Old Etonian who flies helicopters, rides motorbikes, loves a game of rugby or golf and trains like a dervish.

Now, as Redgrave departs, seniority is his. The moves have already started. He carried the British flag - one-handed - at the Opening Ceremony. He was pushed forward for press conferences and his coach, Jurgen Grobler, feels he can go on to Athens 2004 and beyond.

Grobler, a German who has had successful crews at every Games since 1976, says: "If Matthew carries on he has a big chance of emulating Steve's record. He has the engine. He has the desire and he has the appetite for five hours a day training. You need commitment and motivation and that's what he and the others have had for the last four years. I will not speak to him about it until we have all had a break from the boat."

Pinsent is not so sure. He said: "I have no plan or motivation to challenge Steve's record. It would be crazy for me to plan for Athens in 2004 and Timbuktu or wherever in 2008 but I do like the idea of carrying on.

"People ask me how I feel about being in Steve's shadow. I would not have won medals without him. I was Olympic champion at the age of 21. That would not have happened without him. Everybody asks what it is like being in his shadow all the time. I can tell you it's not dark in there. You get some pretty serious limelight around Steve."

Now he will have it all to himself and there is little doubt that Tim Foster, a 30-year-old Tottenham Hotspur supporter who dived into the Amazon to save a girl cox from piranhas and alligators, will be around in four years. The cox, Bethan Bell, is now his fiancée.

Foster has been plagued by back problems that led to an operation and fears that his rowing career was over. "As I waited at the start today and looked back over what had happened to me, I had all the motivation I needed. I told myself that I had not been through so much to be an Olympic loser."

Cracknell, at 28, has always seen Redgrave and Pinsent as his sporting inspirations and will carry on rowing while continuing to study for an MSc in sports science.

As they rowed to the start of yesterday's final they knew that the only blemish in their time together, when they were beaten by Italy, Australia and New Zealand in Lucerne in July, needed to be eradicated.

As Pinsent put it: "We were angry about that. It was a bad row. So we trained harder and worked harder. We were all angry. We wanted to get right back into it. We managed to retain the quality and I knew as we went to the start that we had not made a retrograde step or slipped back ever since we got together after Lucerne.

"It meant that the quality knob was cranked right over to extra high. We knew there would be no gold medal donations but now the story is complete and Steve can now be recognised as the finest Olympian Britain has ever produced."

Typical of Pinsent that he should turn the conversation back to the hero of the hour.

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Pinsent's passport hitch as Olympic stars return home

MORE than 300 British Olympic athletes, coaches and support crew were due to arrive at Heathrow airport this morning but one of their most famous athletes was nearly left behind. Matthew Pinsent, gold medallist with the coxless four rowing team, arrived at Sydney airport without a passport. The British Airways flight, weighed down with 52 medals from Britain's haul of 28 gold, silver and bronze, was on the verge of leaving without the 30-year-old oarsman.

Christine Nicholls, of the UK Passport Agency, said that Pinsent would require proof of identity on arrival. She said: "But in Mr Pinsent's case I don't think there will be much of a problem recognising him." Airport emmigration staff allowed him through and Pinsent boarded the plane with the rest of Team GB for the 21-hour flight.

British Airways provided the complimentary flight for 306 coaches and athletes. All medallists were upgraded to either first class or club class seats, with free champagne for all passengers. When the coxless four were given the last two first class seats, Tim Foster and James Cracknell handed them over to Pinsent and Steve Redgrave.

Each British medallist will also receive a complimentary BA loyalty card. Speaking before they boarded, Redgrave said: "There's no secret to why the British team has been so successful. There's been a lot of hard work and professionalism. The work started not after Atlanta but after Barcelona."

Courtesy of The Daily Telegraph

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