Even the greatest of careers must come to an end. And in the case of Sir Steven Redgrave CBE that moment arrived when he was at the very top, clutching yet another Olympic gold. The date was 23 September 2000, the setting - the International Regatta Centre in Penrith, site of the rowing competitions for the Sydney Games. Competing alongside James Cracknell, Matthew Pinsent and Tim Foster, he helped Team GB win gold in the coxless fours ahead of the Italians and Australians. It was Redgrave’s fifth gold in five successive Olympic Games, a feat managed by only four other athletes, and never before by a Briton.
Knighted in 2001 for his services to sport, Redgrave was one of few rowers in history to enjoy success rowing both strokeside (port) and bowside (starboard). Standing at a towering 1.95m and powerfully built, the athlete from Marlow in Buckinghamshire came close to qualifying for Moscow 1980 when he was just 18. Four years later in Los Angeles, he won his first Olympic title in the coxed fours with Martin Cross, Richard Budgett, Andy Holmes and Adrian Ellison (cox) after an epic duel with the American boat.
After his victory in the coxless pairs with Andy Holmes in Seoul in 1988, when he also took a bronze in the coxed pairs, it was with Matthew Pinsent, a man eight years his junior, that Redgrave’s Olympic career truly gained momentum. The duo won successive golds in the coxless pairs at Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996 before going on to secure their triumph in the coxless fours in Sydney. In addition to his five Olympic triumphs, Redgrave also scooped nine world championship titles between 1981 and 1999. From 1990 onwards he shared each of those podiums with Pinsent.
On 23 September 2000 in Penrith, after the British quartet crossed the finish line in first place, the normally unflappable Redgrave was surprised by Pinsent, who decided on an unconventional way of celebrating their 11-year collaboration. Watch the video to find out what happened…