Olympic champion Katherine Grainger was taken aback when she sat down to the dull job of working through a mountain of mail to discover, tucked between the bills and the circulars, the official letter offering her a CBE for services to rowing.
Grainger, who was awarded the MBE in 2006, was further recognised at the end of a memorable year in which she finally won Olympic gold with double sculls partner Anna Watkins after three successive silver medals.
Britain enjoyed their most successful Olympic regatta ever at London 2012, with Grainger and Watkins one of four crews to win gold on the lake at Eton Dorney from a total haul of nine medals.
GB Rowing's performance director David Tanner has been rewarded with a knighthood and there are MBEs for all the British gold medallists who had not previously been honoured plus coaches Paul Thompson and Robin Williams.
"It has been the most sensational year," Grainger told Press Association Sport. "The Olympics was bigger and better than anyone could have predicted. To win the gold on that day in front of that crowd was better than I could have hoped it would be.
"I felt like I had received all I could this year. Just when you think you have reached the peak of your pride and happiness, this happens.
"I have been absolutely non-stop busy. I hadn't been going through my mail and it had all been mounting up. I sat down to go through it. There was this official letter hiding among all the bills and the normal stuff that brings you back to reality after an Olympics.
"It genuinely stops you in your tracks. It is take-your-breath-away stuff."
Grainger, 37, is Britain's most decorated female rower. She has blazed a trail both for her sport and for British sportswomen.
In 2000, Grainger was a member of the quadruple scull that won Britain's first ever female Olympic rowing medal. Eight years later, Grainger became the first British woman to win a medal at three successive Olympics.
Grainger had been devastated by a third silver medal but she decided not to retire and her decision was rewarded by an invincible partnership with Watkins. Together they won 23 consecutive races. Grainger won her fifth and sixth world titles before they struck gold in sensational fashion at London 2012.
"I am still struggling to find the right adjectives for winning Olympic gold. As much as you dream and think about it and then you live through it, you don't find the right words. There have been so many wonderful things since that is almost hard to comprehend," said Grainger, who was one of 12 nominees for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.
"With this honour you really do feel you have achieved something special.
"It is never something you aim for, you can't. Olympic golds aren't things everyone gets but you know how to get one, what the process is. With something like this, you can't work towards it. It is not on your radar because you can't aim for it. When the letter comes, it is wonderful.
"I was lucky enough to receive an MBE in 2006 and it is a very exciting day. You go to the Palace and it is an incredibly humbling experience because of the people you meet who are receiving honours have done such a variety of incredible things in their own lives," Grainger said.
"Everyone has got an incredible story. You think 'what a great country this is, when so many people do so many different things."