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Gregory: Fans make Eton Dorney feel like a stadium

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My first Olympic race on Monday went great: I felt calm and relaxed beforehand and really at home on the course.

We managed to put into practice everything we have been doing and it was a positive feeling. The race was fully under our control. We moved out ahead early on and it is difficult from there to keep pushing on, but we maintained the speed we had. As such it is difficult to know whether we held anything back in terms of performance.

Knowing the course helps a lot: I've raced on Eton Dorney every year of my rowing life. The difference this year is that all the volunteers and crowd are rooting for us, wishing us good luck. It's uplifting and makes a huge difference to us. It's unlike anything else I've ever experienced: the sound during the race is incredible.

You can't see the crowd waving the flags as you are in the middle of the lake, but you are aware of the stands rising up high on either side, and the wall of sound. It's the closest we'll get as rowers to competing in a stadium!

My experience of Beijing in 2008, where I was a reserve but didn't race, gave me an idea of what the Olympics are like and that is definitely standing me in good stead.

My three team-mates this year all won gold in that boat and I was nervous for the guys out there in China, and trained with them throughout. I think that having these Games at home have helped me in my own Olympics.

I have won two world golds, but there is more pressure at the Olympics. I asked the three guys - Tom James, Andy Triggs Hodge and Pete Reed - individually about their experience in China: how they dealt with the nerves and competition. It is comforting to think that they have done it, won the ultimate prize, and I can draw on that experience and strength in the closing metres of our final. I could not ask for a better boat.

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Despite the World Championships and all the other regattas, you effectively prepare for one race every four years: and that comes on Saturday. We are well on our way to being where we want to be for that race. Our legs feel good and we are full of energy and fit and strong.

But while it looks like Australia and us are the fastest boats, watching the rowing this morning you realise that anything can happen, with defending champions and favourites knocked out.

We're taking nothing for granted - there are five other crews out there to beat.

It makes no difference that Australia were three seconds quicker than us in the heats. We will be going up against them in the semi-finals, so we could be meeting them twice.

It is our aim to put a proper 2K together in the semis to see where we are in comparison with them: we beat them in the World Cup regatta in Lucerne then they beat us in Munich, so it's 1-1 at the moment!

The four of us went through the heat afterwards, as we do with every race, and talked about what happened and how to improve. We are treating this regatta the same as any other. We used the heats as a stepping stone to the semi-finals and we will look to use the semis as a stepping stone to the final.

We just need to get it right: it doesn't have to be perfect. Our focus for Thursday is on improving how we did the heat. It's a simple route and we just need to get the most out of the boat.

I had a chat with Matthew Pinsent before the Games. He's great to talk to, and very honest and open about his experiences. He and Sir Steve Redgrave won every Olympics they competed in - Steve won five and Matthew four - and the interesting fact is that none of them were straightforward.

There were problems every time, with illness, selection and other issues, and it is important to know that you just have to work around them. They have given us impetus and drive to succeed - they are great people to have around.

Our coach Jurgen Grobler I consider the same as the three guys in my boat: his programme and way of coaching has achieved medals in the past, so you have complete trust in it.

That is not to say that we are guaranteed a medal! You still have to go out there and do it yourself, but when you have the most successful rowing coach in the world working with you, it is a tremendous boost.

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