Matthew Pinsent has admitted he was stunned to land a knighthood in the New Year's Honours List.
The four-time Olympic rowing gold medal winner joins former team-mate Sir Steve Redgrave, knighted after claiming his fifth gold at the Sydney Games in 2000.
"I was shocked to be made a knight," he said. "I wasn't convinced the powers-that-be would believe I'd done enough.
"It's very humbling, and has made what was already an excellent Christmas even better. I'm thoroughly delighted."
Pinsent's British coxless four team-mates James Cracknell (OBE) and Ed Coode and Steve Williams (both MBE) were also honoured.
The four only came together six weeks before the Games began after a difficult genesis saw them overcome illness, loss of form and serious injury.
Pinsent, already honoured as an MBE, OBE and CBE, added: "Winning in Athens was our only aim this year.
"We were totally immersed in that challenge, so it was great to step back and realise it meant so much to people outside of the sport."
Cracknell, winning his second Olympic gold after success in 2000, has taken a year-long break to consider his future, while Coode has retired from the sport altogether.
Williams, at 28 the youngest of the four, is planning to add to his medal collection at future events.
Cracknell said his OBE was the perfect end to a remarkable season.
"Athens was very special for us," he said. "It was the culmination of four years' hard work and we were delighted that our efforts paid off."
Pinsent followed a classically English route to the top of the sport, progressing from Eton College, where he learned to row, to Oxford University.
While studying for a degree in geography, Pinsent took part in two Varsity Boat Races, winning both.
Perhaps the most significant moment of Pinsent's early career came in 1990 when Pinsent was called up as a late replacement to partner Steve Redgrave for the first time.
It did not take the duo long to strike gold, with their first place at the 1991 World Championship - again in the coxless pairs - the start of an unparalleled run of success at the top level.
Gold medals in the worlds soon became commonplace, as Redgrave and Pinsent collected another six (three as a coxless pair, three as part of a coxless four) between 1993 and 1999.
Pinsent and Redgrave dominated rowing throughout the 1990s
But it was in the Olympic Games that Pinsent really made his mark.
His first gold (Redgrave's third) came in 1992 in Barcelona, and was followed by a successful defence of their coxless pair title in Atlanta four years later.
The crowning moment of the partnership came in Sydney in 2000 when, alongside Tim Foster and James Cracknell, Pinsent helped Redgrave to an amazing fifth consecutive Olympic gold in one of the most famous British sporting successes of all time.
Redgrave's retirement saw Pinsent take centre stage in British rowing, and the 6ft 5in and 17st oarsman did not disappoint.
Forming a new partnership with Cracknell, Pinsent collected another three World Championships golds (including the unique feat of two titles in two hours in 2001).
The 2003 season was remarkable in one respect for Pinsent: for the first time in 11 years, he ended the year without a gold medal of any description.
But a breathtaking Olympic success - by just 0.08 seconds - in the coxless fours in Athens ensured Pinsent ended his astonishing career on a high.
After lengthy deliberations over whether to try to emulate Redgrave's achievement, Pinsent, one of only five athletes to win four consecutive Olympic golds, announced his retirement from rowing in November.
Pinsent is expected to pursue a career in sport politics after having already served on the International Olympic Committee's Athletics Commission in 2001 and the British Olympic Association Committee.