SIR Matthew Pinsent is backing Cornwall's Helen Glover and Morgan Bolding to help Britain’s rowers bounce back from their Tokyo turmoil and grab a bumper haul of medals in Paris next summer, writes James Reid of Sportsbeat.

Pinsent, 53, won four Olympic gold medals in four consecutive Games between 1992 and 2004, with Team GB going on to top the sport’s medal table at the next three showpieces in Beijing, London and Rio following his retirement.

Britain’s rowers were unceremoniously knocked off their perch in the Japanese capital two years ago, failing to win a gold medal for the first time since Moscow 1980.

But after an impressive showing at the World Rowing Championships in Belgrade in September – where Great Britain won nine medals including a men’s eight gold for Withiel star Bolding, 28 and a women’s coxless four bronze for Truro star and double Olympic pairs champion Glover, 37 – Pinsent believes there will be a much-improved showing next summer.

“It has been remarkable that suddenly from Tokyo being so low in our ranking of Olympics, it looks like we are going to have a great Games,” he said.

“We need to have a single gold medal boat, that is the standard for British Rowing. We all want more than that, but that is the standard they have got to get back to and I think they will do that with a degree of confidence. 

“In five or six events we are probably the gold medal favourite nation, we have the leading chance but it won’t be an easy regatta.

“At each of the preliminary changes, people will be looking to measure against the British crews. That makes you sit up straighter and put your shoulders back and think they are coming at us now. It will be hardest of all at the Olympics.

“The men’s eight and the men’s four look great; the women’s lightweight double are probably our strongest chance.

“Emily Craig and Imogen Grant, they came fourth in Tokyo by a fraction and they have not lost a single race since.

“You talk to them about Tokyo and they want to put it to bed, but everybody knows they will only really be able to do that during that race in Paris which they could, even should, win and I think they will.”

Pinsent was speaking at a SportsAid workshop focusing on mental health and resilience, where he shared his experiences alongside The Prince and Princess of Wales as well as fellow athletes including five-time Paralympic gold medallist Ellie Simmonds.

The Norfolk-born star revealed how he struggled to deal with the mental aspect of becoming an Olympic champion aged 21, as well as finding the psychological side of sport most difficult in his final race in Athens 12 years later.

And Pinsent hailed the greater focus on athlete mental health for the new generation of athletes compared to the little time attributed to it when he was competing.

“I was in absolute turmoil after my first gold medal,” he admitted. “You have just won, do everything you wanted to achieve in the sport and is by any definition the pinnacle of how high you can get and I was just completely at sea about what that meant. 

“I was just sitting on the end of my bed in the Olympic village with a gold medal in my hand thinking ‘is that it?’

“In one sense that was it, but in another sense it threw open so many questions that I just wasn’t ready to consider.

“At that point, the structure is disappearing around you, you are returning home with no routine. That is common to a lot of Olympic sports people.  

“If I look back to when we were competing, we were muddling through. We thought we were doing it but we didn’t really have the tools, budget or expertise to start delving into it. Now to feel that younger athletes have a skillset is really important.”

SportsAid is seeking support from individuals and organisations to allow the charity to invest further in its mental health and wellbeing initiatives. Please contact Serena Castiglione, Head of Fundraising at SportsAid, on [email protected] if you would like to help provide talented young athletes, as well as their families, with the support and advice they need at a key time in their development.