‘Norfolk boy’ Sir Matthew Pinsent on Team GB’s sacrifices for London 2012
Norwich’s Olympic hopefuls on the brink of London 2012 are now in the lap of the sporting gods, according to Team GB rowing legend Matthew Pinsent.
Fencer Anna Bentley, Beijing cycling silver medallist Emma Pooley and windsurfer Nick Dempsey will join distance runner Barbara Parker, Diss judoka Colin Oates and Lowestoft fighter Anthony Ogogo as part of Norfolk’s contingent at this summer’s Games – the culmination of a host of sacrifices since London’s 2012 bid was confirmed in 2005.
And as far as the sacrifices go, they continue to the very moment their competitive action arrives – especially over the summer weeks leading up to the once in a lifetime opportunity of a home Olympics.
“That is the challenge of the last 50 days – making sure nothing goes wrong, you don’t get injured or make any silly mistakes,” said four-times Olympic champion Pinsent.
“You’re probably trying to train as hard as you can, but also in the back of your mind there is a little bit of concern over what’s going to wrong. Am I going to trip up and scrape my ankle on a curb stone? Am I going to get some sort of cold or ‘flu that’s going to cost me a few days’ training? It’s just the angst of the lead-up.
“As much as you can, you’ve got to stay relaxed about these sorts of things – but it’s easy for me to say. It’s much harder when you’re actually doing it.
“The chances of something going wrong are pretty small but it can happen and there’s not a lot you can do to prevent it. I remember in the run-up to the Olympics I wouldn’t go to people’s barbecues incase they under-cooked the chicken, I wouldn’t sit in the sun incase I got sun burnt, I wouldn’t go to the pub incase I had too much to drink... It’s all about depriving yourself on the basis that you want to make the last 50 days as good as you possibly can.
“This will be the biggest event we witness in our lifetime – and that’s pretty big when you think we might have a World Cup, a jubilee or two in our lifetimes, the big state occasions. But this is all of those combined into one, day after day, for two and a half weeks.”
Pinsent’s rowing career was exceptional with Olympic golds in Barcelona, Atlanta, Syndey and Athens sat alongside 10 World Championship titles mostly shared with Sir Steve Redgrave and James Cracknell – followed by a knighthood in 2004. And there is a little bit of Norfolk in one of the greatest sportmen this country has ever produced.
“I was born in Holt where my father was a vicar and we moved when I was two – technically, definitely I’m a Norfolk boy, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been back. Although we do have a few friends from my parents era still there and we went on holiday there a few years ago.”
Rowing has been profitable for Team GB in recent Games and Pinsent is confident the trend will continue, with what he labelled the strongest rowing squad the country has had.
But he also believes achieving GB’s aims of topping the medal haul of 47 from Beijing and with it, recording Britain’s best effort in a century is a tough one to achieve.
“They are tough targets given their performance in China,” admitted Pinsent. “It’s the kind of thing where that bar is so high, actually we’ll be doing very well if we get over that.”
Eight years since his last competitive Olympics, Pinsent will still have a role in London – writing for the national press and helping with the BBC’s coverage.
He has also been involved with the build-up, staring in The Britalian Job – a London 2012-themed film that pays homage to the 1969 classic Mini.
British Olympics legends such as Pinsent and Redgrave would usually be prime candidates for lighting the cauldron from the Olympic torch during the opening ceremony on July 27 – but Pinsent reckons London will keep to their current theme.
“I don’t think it will be an Olympian – I think that’s unlikely because London have done it their way and made these things more likely to be the unexpected, so I’m not sure they’ll take it the normal way,” added Pinsent.
“It’s one of the reasons we won the bid, so I think it’s fantastic. I would probably pick a kid from Stratford who was born on the day we won the right to host the Games – I think that has a nice ring to it, although I admit it’s not my idea.”