Grainger won silver in Sydney in 2000, followed by more silver medals in Athens and Beijing. In London, she won gold alongside Anna Watkins in the women’s double sculls.
“I think if anyone sums up the spirit of the Olympics in terms of keeping on trying until you get what you want, it’s Katherine Grainger,” Balding said.
The 40-year-old rower is Britain’s most decorated female Olympian, sharing the record with Rebecca Adlington, and will compete again at the Rio Olympics.
TV presenter and commentator Balding said the athlete “should take a lot of credit for giving other women belief in themselves.”
She added: “She won’t take that credit because she’s very modest, and I think she has no idea of the impact she’s had.”
Grainger will compete in the women’s double sculls alongside Vicky Thornley.
Balding said she hoped to see them win the medal for Team GB, explaining: “It’s been such a tough ride for them going through the uncertainty of whether she was going to stop or carry on.
“I think her tenacity and her ability to come back from disappointment are where Katherine stands out.”
Balding’s fellow BBC presenter Gabby Logan chose boxer Nicola Adams as her favourite Olympian, while Hazel Irvine chose 1972 Munich Olympics sensation Mark Spitz.