London 2012: Home Olympics a dream for Mark Hunter

Mark Hunter is relishing the opportunity to defend his Olympic rowing sculls gold medal on home water.

Hunter, who grew up in the East End of London, won gold in the lightweight double in Beijing with Zac Purchase.

He told BBC Berkshire: "I had the dream of going to the Olympic Games, but I never thought when I started rowing that it would come back to London.

"To go to where I started and see that area develop and change is huge - the whole world is going to be watching."

Hunter took a year out from rowing after their 2008 triumph in China and moved to California to coach.

He believes taking that time out has made him want to come back a stronger athlete and compete at the 2012 Games.

"I had six months of enjoying life, being social, going out and going to work and I loved every minute," he added.

"My chief coach planted the seed about going back - I realised I had more to give and wanted to be a part of London more than anything.

"Once I thought about it and came back to earth after Beijing - because you're on that cloud nine high - you realise there is more to do and there's a great opportunity."

For the 33-year-old, the hard work continues over the winter, but he insisted the preparation now is key to success next season.

"If you lose that excitement to want to get up and train then you've lost the desire to become an athlete because that's where all the hard graft is done.

"The fun comes when the racing season actually starts."

Hunter and sculls partner Purchase won gold at the World Championships in Karapiro, New Zealand in 2010 and followed up with another success this summer at Lake Bled in Slovenia.

The pair won gold despite having a shorter preparation period than the other crews and Hunter believes with a full training schedule, the duo can continue their success at Dorney Lake next summer.

"Zac had been ill so he hadn't got the training behind the scenes," he explained.

"We weren't the fittest crew but we were able to go out and win - that really showed the character and class we have in the event.

"The rest of the world are on top form but I'd say we're looking good for next year."