Sherborne Girls School
“To win an Olympic gold you have to fight as if your life depended on it,” says Sir Matthew Pinsent CBE
Addressing students at Sherborne Girls in Dorset last week, four-times Olympic gold winner Sir Matthew Pinsent CBE spoke frankly of the fear he experienced before an Olympic final and how embracing that fear helped him to reach the peak of his sporting performance.
“Before the rowing race you just want to run away, but it is that fight or flight mechanism that you need – adrenalin makes you stronger,” said Sir Matthew, 41, who went on to cite Katherine Grainger and Anne Watkins’s victory in the double sculls as his favourite moment of the London 2012 Olympics.
“People have an illusion of Olympic athletes like Andy Murray or Jessica Ennis never getting nervous, but before a race I’d be shaky and my head would be all over the place; you just learn the skills needed to deal with it, and actually look forward to the challenge of being scared. You have to fight as if your life depended on it, and then when you stand on the podium it is the most addictive feeling, knowing
that you’re the best in the world and that thousands want to be where you are now. I’d heartily recommend it.”
Sir Matthew also reflected on his school days atEton– “I got really annoyed when we lost a race, looking back I wasn’t a very good team player” – and said that for students at Sherborne Girls, competing at the Olympics should not be an impossible dream. “Olympians were at school once too – they struggled with studies and sport, but they were focused enough to make it work. The trick is to find a sport that you’re suited to, and to stay determined.”
Commenting on Sir Matthew’s speech, Sherborne Girls’ Headmistress Jenny Dwyer said: “It’s easy to think that Olympians never face a moment’s doubt but what sets them apart is their ability to channel those feelings to make their performance the best it can possibly be. Many of our girls are skilled athletes and compete at a high level so they will appreciate Sir Matthew’s comments about the importance of managing their time to ensure that they do not fall behind with their academic studies, and the need to be bold in their endeavours, which is one of Sherborne Girls’ key themes this year. Sir Matthew was truly inspirational and the girls came away from the speech enthused and excited to have been in the presence of one ofBritain’s greatest sporting legends.”
Now retired from rowing, Sir Matthew went on to talk about his current career in journalism and broadcasting and the downside of being in the public eye. “I used to be asked every year if I’d do Strictly Come Dancing and I would tell them very firmly no. Now I try to focus on what’s going to be enjoyable and respected. Fame is a ridiculous elusive quality – and once you’re famous it’s hard to turn it off and say you want your privacy back. I love it when people come up to me and say they’ve enjoyed a race or an article; I much prefer to do things I’m respected for.”
Established in 1899, Sherborne Girls inDorsetis an independent full boarding school at the forefront of women’s education with a friendly, vibrant and highly motivated community. The school’s aim is to provide a rich, all-round education enabling girls to enjoy fulfilling and active lives, have open and enquiring minds and develop the character and courage to make a valuable contribution to a changing world. Sherborne girls excel in a wide range of musical, creative and competitive activities as well as academically. They enjoy an extensive variety of other interests outside the classroom. www.sherborne.com