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on 13 September 2004
Pinsent is a legend. I'm a rower, so I'm biased, but he's known as a nice guy with the physiology of a small horse and an inability to lose. He's a massive man, a private personality and the junior partner to the living legend Sir Steve Redgrave. When the junior partner has four Olympic Golds and countless World Championship medals, you realise that it's time for someone to come out of the shadows.
This book isn't challenging, but it's a good read. He doesn't obviously make many allowances for non-rowers, there are plenty of technical terms in there which perhaps a non-rower might not be able to always skip over, but that's not really a criticism. What comes across clear as day is that he's someone who doesn't take for granted that what he is, what he does and what he has achieved. He seems very balance, personable, humble and grateful.
But there's so much not here that would have made the book even better. It's very factual, lots of descriptions of races and of specific events. He doesn't spend a massive amount of time analysing and parsing through the things he's experienced.
For several years he was a member of the IOC, yet this isn't even mentioned! I would have found his inside story on that shady institution fascinating. Perhaps he hankers to return or was worried that his comments might have damaged London's 20112 bid? But to not even mention it seemed strange.
Similarly, in the lead up to Sydney, one of the reasons that the Coxless Four was so popular was the TV programme Gold Fever, yet he didn't mention that for 18 months he and his crew had video diaries. It would have been interesting to learn about how that affected them.
It rolls along easily enough and you'll learn some things; non-rowers especially, will get a good picture of just what it is that drives us rowers to train for hours and hours on cold winter mornings. It's inspirational ... and there enough gaps that volume two, when it appears, will be worth reading, too.
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on 23 October 2004
This is a fascinating book for all rowing fans and indeed all sports fans with an interest in how things work behind the scenes of rowing.
Matthew Pinsent guides the reader through his career, from the first moments in a rowing boat as a teenager, selection in the Junior World Championships, life on the Oxford Boat Race team through to his partnership with Steve Redgrave and the formation of the coxless four, ending with a nice diary entry format of his experience leading up to and through to the Olympic final in Athens.
The only disappointing aspect of the book is there isn't really a great deal of autobiographical detail, not even when the great man's birthday is or much about his experiences off the water; such as involvement with the IOC etc... However after reading a little way into the book you soon appreciate that Matthew is a very private man and by the end of the book you will have nothing but utter admiration and respect for him as a supreme athlete and ambassador for British sport and also as the person he is. (I am a little biased as I'm a fan and also got to meet him a few days ago!)
Unless you are involved with rowing at some level you will be surprised and shocked at the tenacity, courage and willpower a rower of Olympic standard needs to achieve their dreams. It certainly makes you think of how few people there are whom could endure the training required.
The book also gives some interesting insights on dynamics and relationships within rowing clubs, teams and between rival nations. All in all, a great read!
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on 10 September 2004
I found this book to be well written and thoroughly enjoyable. The author brings his rowing stories to life with an obvious humour which should appeal to rowers and non rowers alike. A mixture of journal extracts and narrative writing make it a particularly easy read and the pure facts and figures - including name dropping - are kept to a minimum. Not least because you sense that with so many races and so many medals the author cannot remember them.
The focus is on the build up to Sydney and before and, as a result of a ridiculous deadline no doubt, the Athens coverage is much smaller - however the last chapter is as tense as watching the Olympic final race itself. Obviously room for another book on the coxless four and the drama that surrounded the Athens preparation.
A good book, I recommend you buy it.
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on 9 January 2005
After having made such an impact on the world of rowing and with his recent retirement I felt compelled to read Matthew Pinsent's autobiography. It's not just a book about rowing but almost like a guide on how to achieve your goal whatever sport it is. It is such a well written and witty autobiography. I read the book in one sitting and could be heard laughing aloud and also crying (I never knew that he had a brother who died from Leukaemia). I now have nothing but respect and admiration for that gentle giant. Forget all those trashy autobiographies out there, this book will give that New Year adrenaline drive needed.
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on 12 June 2006
A truly fascinating book, which I did not expect to be 'unputdownable', but read it in a day and a half! I think one of the better aspects of it is that although it was written sometimes diary form, it was not in chronological order and that was part of its charm. It was very well written and I enjoyed being taken through all the highs and lows and the discomfort that competitive sport brings.

A couple of times he over-emphasised his emotions, in a assuming no-one felt that emotion more than he (how would he know?)which was annoying, but his descriptions of his relationships were moving and I was surprised at the depth of the rivalry with the Searle brothers (whatever happened to them?).

Certainly a wonderful read that kept me captivated, and although Matthew is clearly, and rightly, a private man, I hope he doesn't become a stranger to the world of writing. Yeah, I am a fan!
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on 11 March 2013
Over the 1990s Matthew Pinsent and Steve Redgrave were compared to M & S for their reliability and success rate. With five golds Redgrave seemed to do no wrong, and his voice was one of authority. Pinsent, like Andy Holmes previously, often seemed the other rower in the boat. Matthew
Pinsent's story (since knighted) in reality is much more.

When Redgrave officially retired and published his biography he recounted one thing which commentators overlooked A Golden Age - Steve Redgrave The Autobiography: A Golden Age - The Autobiography. He was a rower and frequented a comprehensive school, not a rich public school, like Eton, Harrow, or Winchester, and as state comprehensives outnumber the private schools he was saying there was every chance that the next British Olympic winner would come from the state sector. Redgrave also stated that contrary to public knowledge the annual Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race was a sort of Mickey-mouse competition, and very few participants then transferred their Boat Race successes, and blues, into the international sector, so annoying Oxford's oarsman and later coach Dan Topolski True Blue: The Oxford Boat Race MutinyTrue Blue [DVD].

In many ways, without even repeating his partner's opinions, Matthew Pinsent's work is a reply. Unlike Redgrave, Pinsent did first frequent Eton, and then Oxford, and he does know what he is talking about. First of all, Etonians are not all in the Cameron or Johnson mould, and despite being both Conservative the Johnson family is quite different from the Cameron. Many pupils have scholarships and come from lower middle and even working class backgrounds, with a good representation from ethnic groups. They have more opportunities to take part in rowing, but few choose to do. The good sportsmen are good despite their parents, their background, or if the take The Daily Telegraph or The Daily Mirror.

At Oxford where Pinsent became captain he lists a number of students from the two old universities who succeeded in turning the university boating success as a launching pad into the international squad. In the 1990s he even noted that in addition to the traditional US rowers, he competed together and against excellent rowers and scullers from Canada, Germany, and New Zealand, countries which he had to fight hard to beat on the water. Having done the Boat Race several times, Pinsent is definite that it is not a Mickey mouse affair; it is very different and longer than anything else. It is the outcome of the hard work of the winter, before the onset of traditional shorter international summer races.

Pinsent makes many comments about his partner both in the words he uses, and those he chooses to exclude, just as Redgrave may have decided to write everything. Try as they might no commentator could build up rivalry as they did between Ovett and Coe, as it would simply mean a loss of a medal
and even with a boost in sales no journalist would have risked being pointed at as the one who brought the glorious era to a close.

In contrast to Redgrave, both he and Greg Searle do like to reminisce about the games the rival competitors do to one another before or after races If Not Now, When?: One man's extraordinary quest for Olympic glory, twenty years after his first gold medal. I suspect that because Redgrave had a 24 hour professional commitment to the sport, and found juvenile games irritating, a waste of time, and pointless, and so would refrain to describe events which he did not approve of.

He does show much loyalty, as Redgrave lifted him into a group that perhaps he might not have succeeded so soon with others; and was grateful for the successes which helped the sponsorships before National Lottery kicked in for all.

The style and closeness towards the reader is also different. If Redgrave seemed to describe the events as the authoritative, truthful voice from above, Pinsent told the tale more from the ranks and the opinion of one of the rowers in the boat. He did stress, however, that whether as part of the coxless pairs until the famous victory at the Atlanta Games in 1996, or in the fours until the next Olympiad in Sydney no one disputed Redgrave's authority whether it had been unofficially authorised by the coach, Jürgen Gölder, or because due to his experience, he seemed to behave as the skipper or guardian angel, with a sixth sense knowing when to attack, and with that extra element of luck that ultimately pushes all over the line for the top rather than other, or very infrequently no prizes.

Naturally, though the pair occupied the lion share of Pinsent's rowing career, he was writing this volume to present his greatest assets, including becoming victor when the greatest British Olympian at the time had left the waters. So each section begins one step closer after Sydney on the road to Athens. Unlike Redgrave, Pinsent could present the difficult moments he and the others had experienced on their journey, when he and James Cracknell came through fourth at the World Championships in Milan in 2003 (his last), and still managed to win the race which really mattered. Thus, this book, is probably more complete in human terms because he was really able to empathize with the losers as he too had experienced that feeling of hurt and defeat. He admits with Redgrave in the boat, it was like having another man as most of his overseas rivals had virtually been won over in their minds that they would not be able to beat the invincible giant.

One strange event happened to each of these two greats in a laundrette at their last Olympics. Perhaps someone in future may interpret it in Freudian terms. Did they actually occur, or was it a useful filler in their stories? Were they both being nostalgic and reminiscing about their highs and lows as the greys were going round and becoming whites?

Finally, Redgrave had ideas of his future, something the other great seemed he was not. When the book was written in late 2004 he was happy to conclude by watching the water go past him for a change. Was he still honest as he was over his entire career, or did he feel that because his sporting life in the public place was ending he now wanted to build a different, a more private life away from the glare of the spotlight, or was he planning to hold something back for his later memoir? Does that matter? I don't think so.

For me, I feel that if Pinsent was the ideal partner for Steve Redgrave, he was a better rower as he seemed able to work well with all others, and that was sufficient to give confidence to those who had experienced bad luck previously, such as Ed Coode who together with Greg Searle was unfortunate to be pipped to a medal in Sydney, and young Steve Williams who would go on to win his second gold in Beijing in 2008.

Readers of sporting biographies are warmly recommended to read this work even if Athens has become a small memory in the wake of the economic disaster in Greece since 2008. It marks twelve important years when British rowers ruled the waves, and in Atlanta were the only top medalist to shine.Victory came when he rowed two or four in a boat, with or without the Greatest British rower.
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on 23 August 2014
I have never rowed on water , although I am a lifetime runner,and know only of Matthew Pinsett from the media. Furthermore I know very little about rowing, other than what is on the television at the Olympics. I do use a Concept 2 at the gym and enjoy it.
What I liked about the book was the detail about the training programmes and the tactics used by the rowing crews. Especially informative was the attention given to split times, intervals, and strokes per minute.
Beyond that, there is limited interest for the general reader. Matthew appears to have led a dedicated, stable life so there are no falls from grace, personal struggles, drama or car chases. If these have been part of his life,he keeps quiet about them.The book is all about the boat, and if thats what you want, it will be a good read
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on 20 November 2012
I enjoyed this book,it is well written,and gives an insight into the world of rowing,which is an area that is not much covered in the popular press. Matthew gives some insights into himself, but certainly delves deep into his philosophy and determination to become a great oarsman and sportsman. There is not much about Matthew Pinsent, but then most of his life up to 2004 is focused and dedicated to rowing and winning gold medals at the various Olympics,so perhaps that is the man. As a non rowing person the details of the races did get a bit heavy,but it was always interlaced with his philosophy about sport and winning, and the importance of relationships,that it makes that part of the story bearable.
Good autobiography.
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on 31 January 2010
I found this a really engaging and entertaining read, as well as interesting on a factual level. Like some of the other reviewers, I'm an oarsman too, but I still believe it's a very accessible book for a non-rower interested in learning more about makes elite athletes tick. It has some laugh-out-loud moments, complemented by some genuinely humbling accounts of the peaks and troughs of top-level competition. The book is a masterclass in understatement at times, and as said by other reviewers, it's oddly lacking in some really crucial detail about Pinsent's career.

On balance, I recommend the book heartily, yet I wish Pinsent would expand this volume.
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on 28 August 2012
Great book on how Matthew Pinsent's career began from a novice school rower to Olympic champion. He recalls all his events in amazing detail and I couldn't put the book down. I even in some places laughed at his writing some very funny, inspirational and sad moments in this book. Some rowing terminology in there but I think it explained very well so don't be put off.
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