Steve Redgrave on his career highlights and his own sport heroes
Five times Olympic gold medalist and Laureus Academy member Steve Redgrave has had his fair share of amazing Olympic memories. Winning a gold medal at every Games he ever attended, father of three Redgrave believes that trying to pick a favourite Games can be likened to picking a favourite child: “each one has it's own personality. It’s not just about that day of the final, and winning the race, and being on the rostrum, it’s the four years build-up, the highs and lows that gives its own identity in some ways.”
Looking back at his time at the Games, Redgrave remembers hiding away in his “own little bubble” in the run up to his event, “but rowing is pretty lucky“, he says, “in that it's in the first week of the Games, so you can be really single-minded.” Event complete, Redgrave admits the athletes get the opportunity to have a little fun, but he says there's an unwritten code of conduct that the fun doesn't happen within the Olympic village itself. “The swimmers tend to finish before most other sports because their individual discipline is over in one day...then they find all the good places to go and party. And so, when the rowing finishes we go and find the swimmers because they’ve always found the good parties by then.”
And the fun hasn't stopped for Redgrave, now an ambassador for Team GB and official VIP host at this year's Games , he will have an unrivaled opportunity to meet sporting greats of past, present and future at the. With Redgrave citing runner Usain Bolt or swimmer Michael Phelps, eight time gold medal winner at the last Olympic Games, as the personalities most likely to become international sporting superstars over the course of London 2012, he admits he could still be taken by surprise. With 26 sports, “you don’t really know who’s going to be the one that’s going to capture the imagination of the public around the world. There’s always a character that comes out.”
Talking about his own all-time sporting hero Redgrave can't speak highly enough of American swimmer and fellow Laureus Academy Member Mark Spitz, whose record of seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Games was recently beaten by Phelps at the 2008's Beijing Games.”People don't realise that he actually broke the world record in every event that he won. It wasn't just about winning the gold medals but being the best performance at that time, which is incredible,” says Redgrave. Having met Spitz a number of times, he say “they say it's best not to meet your heroes, but in his case he fulfilled [my expectations] and more.”
Redgrave also has great expectations for this year's British rowing performance, going so far as to say, “this team will produce more medals than probably any other rowing team in its British history.” Luckily, Redgrave, who will also be commentating for the BBC during the eight days of competitive rowing, will be in a prime position to watch the best of the action as it happens live, but the team has a lot to live up when it comes to reaching the bar set by Redgrave and his team.
But Redgrave's involvement in the London 2012 Games is much more than hanging out with sporting legends in the making. In his capacity as government advisor for human legacy of the Games, Redgrave has brought in a team of “sports makers” to this year's event: a 40,000 strong team of youths who will work with schools, offices and groups across the country to provide coaching and fun sporting events that Redgrave believes will touch thousands of people's lives.
It's the sort humanitarian effort that Redgrave, as a Laureus Academy Member, is frequently supporting. He says, “I'm determined to be more involved in Laureus. Up until now it’s been pretty difficult because of 2012. I’m not quite sure of what my long term challenges and goals will be. I’m still helping other people achieve their dreams.”
But one thing's for certain, when Redgrave raises to a challenge, it will be a medal worthy effort. We look forward to benefiting from more of Redgrave's humanitarian work with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation over the coming months and years.