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Six of the best as Redgrave turns 50

Posted by rowingvoice on March 23, 2012

As Sir Steve Redgrave celebrates his 50th birthday on Friday, there are people now just taking up rowing who were born after he won his fifth Olympic gold medal in Sydney in September 2000, and many more involved in the sport who are too young to remember his exploits.

Martin Gough selects a few of the highlights – some obvious, some a little less so. Please vote on your favourites from this selection at the bottom of the page, or let us know either in the comments section, via Twitter or on our Facebook page if there are others that you think are more memorable.

First Olympic gold – Los Angeles, 1984

Through the mist at Lake Casitas, Redgrave, Andy Holmes, Richard Budgett, Martin Cross and cox Adrian Ellison secured Great Britain’s first Olympic rowing gold medal since 1948, rowing through the American quartet in the last quarter of the race.

When the fivesome appeared on the BBC Sports Review of the Year, the host admitted the public may not recognise them, so asked them to turn in profile, then played the highlights of their final.

First world title – Nottingham, 1986

The coxed pair is an event for hard men and Redgrave and Holmes fitted the bill perfectly, here coming from a length down to overhaul East Germans Olaf Foerster and Thomas Greiner, and holding off Italy’s Abbagnale brothers Giuseppe and Carmine in the sprint, with the aid of cox Pat Sweeney.

(It’s worth watching even if you can’t follow the Italian commentary!)

Redgrave and Holmes won in the coxless pair the following year and attempted a double at the 1988 Olympics but, although successful in the coxless event, they had to settle for bronze in the coxed pair.

From fourth to four in a row – Indianapolis, 1994

Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent came together in a pair in 1990, winning the world title the following year then the Olympic crown with apparent ease in Banyoles in 1992, but they had to work much harder to secure a fourth straight triumphant season in 1994.

They set a world best to beat West Germany in a thrilling race at the world cup event in Lucerne earlier in the season and had to work just as hard to pass Peter Hoeltzenbein, Thorsten Streppelhoff – the Cambridge stern pair in the Boat Race that spring – in the season finale in Indianapolis.

Fourth early on, they still had to come from a length down with 500 left but managed to break the Germans thanks to an amazing rate burst, hitting the mid-40s.

The World Rowing website has archive video of world championships finals through the last two decades. It isn’t possible to link to individual clips but search for “1994” then select the men’s pairs from the list below.

Great Britain’s only gold – Atlanta, 1996

The effort was obvious when, having apparently cruised through the first two-thirds of the race, Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent had to hold off a ferocious push from David Weightman and Robert Scott of Australia in the closing stages.

It isn’t on this clip but the day is often remembered for an exhausted Redgrave’s comments afterwards, managing to use the “F” word on the BBC before vowing “If you see me go near a boat again you have my permission to shoot me”.

The victory brought Great Britain’s only gold medal of the Atlanta Games, in any sport. A BBC colleague four years ago referred in text commentary to GB winning “just one measly” gold in 1996 and promptly received a phone call from Pinsent, who assured her “in the nicest possible way” that the medal was “emphatically not measly”.

First in the coxless four (and first for me) – Aiguebelette, 1997

A search for “Redgrave 1997” on the World Rowing archive will bring up a race that Redgrave won with ease.

Having decided to go on for four more years, Redgrave and Pinsent moved into the larger boat, alongside Tim Foster and James Cracknell and – at the end of a week that began with the death of Princess Diana a few hundred miles north – secured Sir Steve’s seventh world title with an impressive show of power late on.

It was the first world championships I saw live, camping on the hillside by the lake, and my biggest memory was of the celebrations by the French, Olympic silver medallists the year before, at coming second, a good two lengths behind the new British “Oarsome Foursome”.

One last gold – Sydney, 2000

After four years of trials and tribulations, the onset of colitis and diabetes for Redgrave as well as bouts of injuries and off-water problems for his crew-mates, the Great Britain four won gold by a matter of feet from Italy on Lake Penrith.

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