We can get about 100 seats into the ballroom at Linden House so there weren’tany going spare when Sir Matthew Pinsent visited us last night. He comes over just the way he does on the telly, only bigger.
It’s probably true to say that the less you need an introduction, the more likely you are to get one. Talking him in, Rory was at pains to point out the races Matthew didn’t win. The bronze medals and the fourth places, the “failures” most of us would dine out on for life.
As a piece of psychologically levelling it was doomed to failure of course. You can’t overlook 10 world championship and four Olympic gold medals. They came too those four dully gleaming discs of hope, effort and victory. When you’ve never seen even one before, the Pinsent set takes you into sensory overload. Matthew passed them round with a casual generosity that made your worry a member of the criminal classes might have slipped in undetected.
The man talks as well as he rows and pretty soon we felt like members of those GB squads, - as if Jurgen Grobler was our coach, Sir Steven Redgrave was a mate and sub six minute 2000 metre ergo times were nothing special.
You realise also that however ordained they might seem in retrospect every one of those golds was fought for, especially the last. It’s one thing to remember reading in the paper that Alex Partridge was diagnosed with a punctured lung just weeks before the games, another to hear Matthew describe what it felt like when Jurgen said “Alex isn’t coming”.
As question followed question, we started to see the Matthew Pinsent of today – a thoughtful protagonist for our sport, and someone who sees the threats and opportunities for rowing in Olympic and international competition.
We can’t thank Sir Matthew enough for coming over for no better reasons than plain old-fashioned generosity. It was a candid and inspirational insight into the life of one of GB’s all-time sporting greats.