Winning Is All

By Barnes, Simon | The Spectator, June 7, 1997 | Go to article overview

Winning Is All


Barnes, Simon, The Spectator


STEVEN Redgrave was back to doing what he does best last weekend: winning. As an athlete, he has grown beyond mere excellence. Being good at your sport, even being the best in the world, only gets you so far, after all. Most of us have walked up a hill and experienced a succession of false peaks. Just as it seems that we have reached the summit, the land unfolds again before us, revealing a more distant goal. Undaunted, we walk on, only to find the hill once more shifting beneath our feet peaks beyond peaks beyond peaks.

That is Redgrave's career for you. He was one fourth of what was in its day the best crew in the world when he first won an Olympic gold medal in 1984. He was half of the best crew in the world when he won his second gold, in the company of Andy Holmes. After splitting from Holmes, he teamed up with Matthew Pinsent, and won another gold medal in Barcelona. He was once again half of the best crew in the world, and reckoned to be the best oarsman in the world. Not enough, not enough. Last year, he and Pinsent won gold again, and Redgrave was universally recognised as the finest oarsman that had ever drawn breath, and that surely was enough.

Redgrave certainly thought so. Trained to the edge of total collapse, like a Grand Prix car tuned to the point of spontaneous combustion, in victory he looked like death. Reaching shore, more a matter of relief than joy, he panted into the nearest microphone, `Anyone who sees me enter a boat again has full permission to shoot me.'

But then the greatest oarsman in history surveyed the extent of his achievement, and it was not enough. So he and Pinsent united again, this time as part of a nuclear family, in a coxless four with Tim Foster and James Cracknell. And they won their event in something called the World Cup series in Munich last weekend. The victory machine is back in gear.

`Previously I raced hoping to win,' Foster said afterwards. …

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