Among the glitterati and the blazerati on the Berkshire riverbank in Henley Royal Regatta week, Matthew Pinsent exudes authority. These days, it is an image not restricted to his feats on the water, either.
His preparation for four days which will conclude with today's final of the Silver Goblets, the coxless pairs event, has been punctuated by a quick dash to Prague to cast a vote critical to London's chances of hosting the 2012 Olympic Games.
Which just might be described as a rather impressive piece of time-efficiency by Pinsent, a member of the International Olympic Committee's athletes commission, who had to vote on the city to host the 2010 winter Games. The success of Vancouver means that Toronto will not be considered for the 2012 summer Games, increasing optimism that a European city will claim the prize.
Not that the incredible hulk of post-Redgrave rowing sees this logistical exercise as anything exceptional. After Pinsent and Cracknell had comfortably won their heats on Thursday and Friday, he said insouciantly: "I flew to Prague on Tuesday, was there all day on Wednesday, pressed the flesh of all the right people, then pressed the voting button, and saw the result on CNN in the airport on the way back. I only missed one day's training, and in Regatta week it's so hectic you can't do much anyway."
Pinsent has also been made a Steward of the Regatta, emulating his former crewmate Sir Steven Redgrave, though his duties are very much secondary to those on the water, where it has not been totally plain sailing this season with an unexpected defeat by the Croatian Skelin brothers, Sinisa and Niksa, in Milan in May. Though the British pair made good in their ensuing World Cup event, the Croatians were absent, and Pinsent and Cracknell were looking forward to revenge on their home waters today - until the Croatians were beaten in yesterday's semi-final.
Not that Pinsent would have read too much into it anyway. "It's hard to compare here and Milan. This is so much our territory; it's our crowd and very much our home water. We wanted to beat them, though whether that would have set the record straight about Milan, I don't know. Anyway, we're not tearing our hair out about it. Why should we? The most important thing this year is the world championships [next month], and the most important thing after that, by far, is one year, two months away in Athens. Everything else pales into insignificance."
He added: "Steve [Redgrave] and I went for years on the basis that the more often you beat people, the easier it becomes. But it doesn't. We won every race we entered from 1992-96, got to the Olympic final in Atlanta and then got run close by an Australian pair we hadn't raced and hadn't given a flying monkeys about."
A few yards away from where Pinsent was speaking, another member of the Sydney 2000 gold-medal four was concentrating on his new career as coach to three London University crews. Tim Foster, the character who wouldn't allow a damaged spine to prevent him from contributing to the victory which yielded Redgrave his fifth Olympic gold, but who was unable to continue afterwards as an international rower, hopes eventually to be a coach within the Great Britain squad. "You have to go through the system; there's only the pair, the four and the eight in Olympic competition, and they've already got coaches: Jürgen [Grobler], Steve Gunn and John West," he said. "My chance will come after the Olympics."
By which time Pinsent, if current progress is maintained, should have accumulated his fourth Olympic gold.
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