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Emotional Pinsent grabs fourth gold
August 21, 2004 14:50 IST
British rower Matthew Pinsent finally emerged from the long shadow cast by his former partner Steve Redgrave when he won his fourth successive Olympic gold on Saturday.
Pinsent was just 19 when he joined forces with the indomitable Redgrave in 1990, helping him to win three of his five consecutive Olympic titles before Redgrave's retirement after the Sydney Games.
Pinsent, a red-cheeked ex-Etonian, decided to carry on and achieved probably the greatest achievement of his career by winning the coxless four gold in Athens.
The title was won by the narrowest of margins at the end of one of the great Olympic rowing duels, against world champions Canada, and followed a run-up to the Olympics which tested Pinsent's character to the maximum.
The 33-year-old had failed to win gold at the 2003 worlds for the first time at either an Olympics or world championships since 1990 when he finished fourth in the coxless pairs with Sydney gold medallist James Cracknell.
Following that upset the pair moved into the coxless four and after a series of crew changes, lined up with former world champions Steve Williams and Ed Coode.
Despite a disappointing third place in the final World Cup event, the British four started as one of the favourites in Athens and the experience of Pinsent helped them beat Canada by just eight hundredths of a second.
Following the 2003 worlds, Pinsent said he felt relieved to have ended the streak. But losing does not sit well with the hugely focused oarsman and his relief at fulfilling a nation's expectations overcame him on the medal podium.
As his three team mates bellowed the national anthem, Pinsent broke down completely, his head bowed and sobs shaking his huge frame.
He will now inevitably face the question of whether he will continue in a bid to match Redrave's record.
Like Redgrave's, Pinsent's success has been based more on his strength, power and commitment than elegant technique.
"It's like being a soldier or a policeman," Pinsent told the Times newspaper in reference to training.
"It's 99 percent boredom, but when that moment comes you want to be ready, by god you want to be ready."