North-east Olympian Katherine Grainger has been made a Dame in recognition of her world-renowned rowing career.
She was presented with the honour by the Queen at an investiture ceremony in Buckingham Palace yesterday.
The 41-year-old, whose parents still live in Aberdeenshire, won a gold and four silver medals at the last five consecutive Olympics and received the honour in recognition not only of her impressive rowing career but also for her services to charity.
Speaking afterwards, Dame Katherine, who has now retired from international rowing, said: “It’s wonderful and obviously on a day like this it sinks in properly. Although the title has been usable since January, it still doesn’t feel quite real.
“As an athlete it’s not something you ever realistically aim for, or think about or consider.
“So for it to be awarded is incredible and it takes a while to feel you fit the shoes.”
Dame Katherine is the most decorated female British Olympic athlete of all time. She is the first British woman to have won five medals from five successive Olympics.
Her final medal was won at the Rio Olympic Games last summer when she received the silver in the double sculls event alongside her rowing partner Victoria Thornley.
Prior to this, she had won a silver medal in the quadruple sculls at the Beijing Games in 2008, as well as the coxless pairs in Athens 2004 and the quadruple sculls at Sydney 2000.
Gold glory finally came to her at the London 2012 Olympics where she finished first in the double sculls event alongside her then rowing partner Anna Watkins.
She also has six world championships titles in her collection, and even found time to complete a PhD in the sentencing of homicide at King’s College, University of London in 2012.
Dame Katherine said: “I honestly consider myself lucky. I fell into something at university I adored and was very passionate about and was good at.
“It wasn’t my intention, it wasn’t my plan, it wasn’t my long-term dream and it turned into this wonderful career I’ve had for 20 years.”
She said she was spurred on to perfect her skills when she was not expected to do particularly well at the sport at university.
She said: “When I started this sport I was okay at the beginning but I didn’t show massive potential. But I realised I was ambitious – unfortunately undeniably very competitive – and it sort of sparked something to think ‘Well, if I’m going to do this, I’d better find a way to be good’.
“So in a way, like anything in life, if you feel you’ve been put down to the lowest position you either fight back or walk away and I thought ‘I want to fight this one’ and fought all the way to the top.”
She added: “One of the things you don’t expect when you’re doing all the hours in the gym, on the water and other roles, is that suddenly you have a different role you can take on and it is to help other people.
“I do a lot of work with young people in schools or those who are underprivileged and I do stuff abroad as well.
“It’s an incredible position to be in because you haven’t just achieved within your sport but are given the opportunity to give back.”