Steve Redgrave: Casting off

International rowing won’t be the same without Steve Redgrave – five-times Olympic gold medallist and national hero. But will Redgrave be the same without rowing? The commitment demanded by the sport is no less than a lifestyle – on the water seven days a week, 49 weeks a year. When that is gone, what remains?

Announcing his retirement, Redgrave confirmed he is to embark upon a wind-down programme that includes running the London Marathon. Without this continued training, his champion’s heart would be unable to cope. Even his body cannot imagine life after rowing.

As a result, people are curious about the direction Redgrave should now take. He has expressed an intention to enjoy ‘more freedom in [his] life, more time to spend with [his] family’. There is of course the prospect of coaching in the future, but at the moment the sight of the Thames is either too painful or too tempting a prospect. As Redgrave says, ‘it’s time now to try out other things’.

Redgrave has one very saleable attribute – the common touch. Daily Telegraph sports writer Sarah Edworthy, describes him as a ‘thoroughly decent chap’, and his coach, Jurgen Grobler calls him ‘everyone’s hero’ because ‘everyone can touch him’. With such wide appeal, it is no surprise that he is already scheduled for scores of PR events. In particular, there could be no better spokesperson in the development of the SuperSprint rowing format in Europe.

A speaker with a blunt charm and a wicked sense of humour. Redgrave could also be a valuable addition to the after-dinner circuit. He has already coined one of the most famous sporting quotes ever after the Atlanta Olympics, when he gave anyone seeing him near a boat permission to shoot him. Thankfully for Great Britain, no-one took him up on the offer.

However, for a man used to the most titanic of physical battles, such passive roles are unlikely to satisfy. Redgrave needs new challenges – perhaps not physical, but involving will and strength. Perhaps fronting the bid for Britain to host the Games might be an appropriately Olympian feat. However, keeping this water baby content might be a hard task. Maybe round the world yachting could be the right mix for his individuality and leadership skills.


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