Our first hero celebrated in the new century is a figure who, astonishingly, was also an Olympic champion in the 1980s. Steve Redgrave, winner of gold medals at five consecutive Olympic Games stretching from 1984 to 2000, is one of Britain’s very greatest Olympians. Matthew Pinsent, with gold in four consecutive Games, is barely a stroke behind.
One of sport’s greatest moments came at Sydney in the coxless fours at the 2000 Olympic Games. The British four - Redgrave, Pinsent, James Cracknell and Tim Foster - were seeking to overcome the Italian crew, the world champions. Was it one Olympics too many for 38-year-old Redgrave? The British led ..... but the Italians relentlessly made up ground. In a finish of unbearable tension, Redgrave and his crew summoned the strength to hold on to win by the fine margin of 0.38 seconds. Redgrave’s seemingly impossible record of a fifth gold had been achieved.
There are two sculptures near the Thames. An eight-foot tall statue of Steve Redgrave was unveiled in Marlow’s public park by the Queen in 2002. Around his neck are five medals, loosely forming the Olympic rings and representing his record five gold medals. In his face, the intensity and will-to-win that drove Britain’s great Olympian. The classical Greek pose, with his weight resting on his right leg and his left arm raised, creates a direct link between Redgrave and the early Olympic theme. Redgrave, at the unveiling, simply commented: “The statue seems to be a good likeness... but I would have liked to see it with a few less pounds around the middle.”
The second sculpture, at the River and Rowing Museum in Henley, has a very different feel. It shows Redgrave and Pinsent together in training. The dedication, determination and sacrifice behind achievement in world-class sport, and the dream of glory, are reflected in this distinctive sporting sculpture of two great British Olympians.