LONDON Oct 26 Steve Redgrave was never a
showman like Muhammad Ali but Britain' five-times Olympic rowing
champion said he shared the same supreme self-confidence beneath
his understated veneer.
"I'm the complete opposite in one way -- I wouldn't go round
saying I was going to win this and this -- but I still had those
traits within me," Redgrave told Reuters in an interview.
"I did believe I was going to win them just as strongly but
I just wasn't going to shout about it.
"My thought was: 'Why give people something to work with,
why give them ammunition to maybe go out and train harder?'
"I'd hate to be described as arrogant, but you have to have
that belief," he said. "I don't like that old-style British way
of it all being about the competing."
Arrogance is not a label often attached to Britain's
greatest Olympian. Knighted for his achievements, he is as
likely to insist on being addressed as "Sir Steve" as he is to
get back on the water to bid for a sixth gold in 2012.
Ali is among dozens of sporting heroes picked out by
Redgrave in his new book "Inspired - Stories of Sporting
Greatness" - into which he weaves insights to his own obsessive
commitment and the resulting unparalleled achievements.
"When it came to the chapter on 'belief' there is no better
example than Muhammad Ali," he said.
It is now nine years since Redgrave dragged his 38-year-old
diabetes-racked body through six minutes of agony for the very
last time to secure his fifth successive gold on an emotional
By the time he got to the start line of that race he had
long-developed an aura of near-invincibility but said few people
understood what it took to stay at the top for so long.
"Every four years you have to be faster," he said. "People
just think 'oh, that's Redgrave's boat, they just have to turn
up to win' but around the world there are other crews doing all
they can to make sure that isn't the case.
"In Atlanta Matthew (Pinsent) and I went seven seconds
quicker than we had in Barcelona and we won by less than a
second. Visually it looks the same but people don't realise you
just have to keep improving."
Unsurprisingly, Redgrave, who relentlessly pushed his body
to exhaustion in training for more than 20 years, felt something
of a kinship with Emile Zatopek, the Czech distance runner famed
for his extreme training sessions where he would drive himself
to the edge of unconsciousness.
"To win the Olympic 5,000 and 10,000m double is impressive
in itself but then he raced the marathon for the first time and
won that too," he said. "He had no experience but he knew he'd
worked hardest in training so he just backed himself."
Despite thriving on that diet of competition and challenge
for so long Redgrave said he had never regretted his decision to
retire after Sydney.
He moved seamlessly from singlet to suit, taking up
business opportunities, travelling the speaking circuit and
raising millions for charity. He ran the occasional marathon and
is now a keen golfer.
"Loads of people said I'd struggle and it would be the
hardest thing I'd do -- it was the easiest thing I've done in my
life," he said.
Redgrave remains closely linked with the Olympics having
played a leading role in securing the 2012 Games for London but
he has become frustrated by the mechanics of putting the event
together and has no official role with LOCOG, the Games'
"The bid document made so many promises of how we would
inspire not just the youth but the world and then 2012 Ltd gets
broken up by IOC rules and suddenly LOCOG and the Olympic
Delivery Authority are suddenly saying 'oh, no, that's not our
responsibility," he said.
"I've just taken on a new role of looking at the human
legacy of the Games. We are making sure there's not a missed
As if he has not done enough already, he adds: "There is a
lot we can do to inspire people."
(Editing by Sonia Oxley; To comment on this story: