On July 27, 1996, shortly after winning the fourth of his five Olympic gold medals, alongside Matthew Pinsent in the coxless pair, in Atlanta, Steve Redgrave famously declared, ‘If anyone sees me go near a boat, you’ve got my permission to shoot me.’ However, Redgrave had a change of heart and returned to training for the Millenium Olympic Games in Sydney, only to be diagnosed with type two diabetes, at the age of 35, a few months later. Unsuited by the low-calorie diet he was prescribed following his diagnosis, he reverted to his previous high-calorie diet and opted, instead, to inject himself with insulin, up to ten times a day, to maintain his training regime.
Despite expressing doubts, more than once, that he would make it to Sydney at all, Redgrave took his place alongside Pinsent, James Cracknell and Tim Foster in the coxless four and, on September 23, 2000, at the age of 38, became the most successful rower in Olympic history. Indeed, he also became one of only four athletes to win five consecutive Olympic gold medals and was duly knighted, for services to rowing, in the 2001 New Year Honours.
Born, fittingly, in Marlow, Buckinghamshire – a Georgian market town on the River Thames, between Henley and Windsor – Redgrave won his first Olympic gold medal alongside Richard Budgett, Martin Cross and Andy Holmes, under the guidance of coxswain Adrian Ellison, in the coxed four in Los Angeles in 1984. He subsequently triumphed three times in the coxless pair, alongside Andy Holmes in Seoul in 1988 and Pinsent in Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996, before ending his career on a high note in Sydney.