It's impossible to describe how it feels to win an Olympic gold medal; if I could tell you it wouldn't be worth doing. I suppose it's a combination of pride, relief, exhaustion and elation. It's complicated, and not something that you can explain easily because it doesn't feel like anything else most people have ever done.
I think the easiest way to sum it up is that it's life-changing. That's the important bit, and it does literally change your life. Fortunately for me, I've no idea how it feels to win silver or bronze at the Olympics, but you'll see people in tears having won a silver medal – and they won't be tears of joy – and there will also be people who will feel they have achieved a lifetime ambition.
I don't have a preferred medal. They are so far apart in time that the ingredients of each one are very different. As Steve Redgrave memorably said, "You might have a favorite child, but you'd never say." That sums it up pretty well.
I'm not going to tell you where I keep them, let's just say they're somewhere safe, although I do take them almost everywhere – I'm forever going to schools with them. In 2000, I had one stolen. I was meeting my wife off a plane and I stupidly left my briefcase unattended. It had one of my medals in it and a taxi driver picked it up. I don't think he knew that he was taking my medal. He had no idea who I was. The moment I realized it was gone was horrendous. But he ended up handing it in and then tried to pretend it was all a mistake. It was all rather unsavory and we ended up going to court because he went back to the police and told stories about how he had come across the bag. I wasn't interested in the details; I just wanted it back.
The International Olympic Committee can reissue medals, if your house burns down or something. Every medal is unique to the city that designed it and the designs from each Olympics are stored in Lausanne so it is possible to have another made. But for years I'd been telling people that the medal itself wasn't the reason I did it, so I thought I'd just have to live that philosophy. As you can imagine, I was relieved to have it back.
Matthew Pinsent is a professional rower and sports broadcaster. He is the author of A Lifetime in a Race, and a brand ambassador for GANT.