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How Olympic legend rowed against fears

By Western Gazette - Sherborne  |  Posted: October 11, 2012

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A FOUR-TIMES Olympic gold medallist visited Sherborne Girls' School to talk about his experiences as a sportsman.

Rower Sir Matthew Pinsent told pupils of the fear he felt before an Olympic final and how he harnessed his nerves to reach his peak performance.

Sir Matthew, 41, said: "To win an Olympic gold you have to fight as if your life depended on it.

"Before the race you just want to run away, but it is that fight or flight mechanism that you need – adrenalin makes you stronger."

Sir Matthew said his favourite moment of London 2012 was watching Katherine Grainger and Anne Watkins's victory in the double sculls race.

He said: "People have an illusion of Olympic athletes like Andy Murray or Jessica Ennis never getting nervous, but before a race I'd be shaky and my head would be all over the place; you just learn the skills needed to deal with it, and actually look forward to the challenge of being scared.

"Then when you stand on the podium it is the most addictive feeling, knowing that you're the best in the world.

"I'd heartily recommend it."

Sir Matthew also reflected on his school days at Eton. He said: "I got really annoyed when we lost a race. Looking back, I wasn't a very good team player."

He also told the girls that they should not thinking of competing in the Olympics as an impossible dream.

He said: "Olympians were at school once too – they struggled with studies and sport, but they were focused enough to make it work.

"The trick is to find a sport that you're suited to, and to stay determined."

Headmistress Jenny Dwyer said: "It's easy to think that Olympians never face a moment's doubt but what sets them apart is their ability to channel those feelings to make their performance the best it can possibly be.

"Sir Matthew was truly inspirational and the girls came away from the speech enthused and excited."

Sir Matthew, who went into broadcasting and journalism after retiring from rowing, said there is a downside from being in the public eye.

He said: "Fame is a ridiculous, elusive quality – and once you're famous it's hard to turn it off and say you want your privacy back.

"I love it when people come up to me and say they've enjoyed a race or an article."

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