Rowing is a unique team sport. It can teach you a lot about yourself through working with others. My first memory of it was watching Steve Redgrave stroke Britain to gold in Barcelona with Matthew Pinsent. I was 13 and remember thinking to myself that rowing looked like a sport I might enjoy. But even seven years later when I began rowing at Staffordshire University, the idea of going to the Olympics and winning gold seemed very far fetched.

Since then, rowing has completely redefined me as a person. After 10 years and two Olympics I’ve changed – especially in terms of my drive, focus and decision-making. Rowing’s a sport that can do that to you.

There was a steep learning curve for me between the Athens and Beijing Olympics. In 2004, I was part of an eight that was a strong crew. We were as strong as the eight that won gold in Sydney, but we weren’t working as a team – we didn’t all believe in the same things and we didn’t perform.

In Beijing it was different. The difficulties we went through in the 2008 season gave us the strength to work together and believe in ourselves.

During the season, we had recorded bad results in Lucerne and Poznan [Olympic qualifying events]. Injuries meant that the proper crew only rowed together for seven weeks before the games, and we had to learn throughout the Olympic regatta. Yet at the start of the semi-final – normally a really tense occasion – I remember sitting in the boat feeling so happy, thinking there was nowhere else I’d rather be.

In the final, we kept our cohesion, rhythm and collective belief. There was no way that we had planned to be so far adrift after 1,000m, but the Australians’ fantastic effort couldn’t break us. Sometimes, under pressure, individual rowers might try to do something different to close the gap, but we all kept our cool. If we had done anything else, we wouldn’t have been able to row down the Aussies in the last quarter. Winning that gold medal meant that Britain kept up her record of taking a rowing gold at every Olympics since 1984.

London 2012 will be an amazing experience for anyone involved in British rowing – and it’s something that I’m really looking forward to being a part of.

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