Redgrave: 'Defeat has taken the pressure off'

A defiant Steve Redgrave predicted last night that defeat at last weekend's final international event before Sydney could "spur us on, not drag us down" as he and his crew aim for the victory which would provide his fifth Olympic rowing gold.

A defiant Steve Redgrave predicted last night that defeat at last weekend's final international event before Sydney could "spur us on, not drag us down" as he and his crew aim for the victory which would provide his fifth Olympic rowing gold.

After a week's reflection following the World Cup event at Lucerne, Redgrave said: "You can't say it's not a major problem because obviously it is. Afterwards we were all, naturally, very pissed off. Now we've got to remain positive and use this in a constructive way, rather than being downbeat. It will mean that the crews which beat us will go to Sydney with a slightly different attitude, and that could play into our hands."

An eclipse of a crew with Steve Redgrave in its midst used to be about as rare as the sun by the moon. But after two defeats of the British coxless four last weekend - one in the semi-final, the second in Sunday's final - another Olympic gold for Redgrave is no longer the foregone conclusion it was once considered.

In the Lucerne final, Redgrave's crew (Matthew Pinsent, Tim Foster and James Cracknell) could only manage fourth, behind the winners Italy, who beat them by six seconds. For once, media criticism has been directed at Redgrave himself. He retorted: "That doesn't spur me on, and doesn't hold me back. It doesn't worry me at all. I know what shape I'm in, and what we're capable of doing. It wasn't a one-person disaster. It was a combination of things. I'm just glad it happened then, and not in two months' time."

Last week, the four spent time away from formal training. Redgrave has played golf and taken his children to the seaside. When the crew return tomorrow there will undoubtedly be some serious discussions between the coach Jürgen Gröbler and his crew. "Beforehand at Lucerne, I was thinking that the best result could be us losing," Redgrave said. "That it would really gee us up and ensure there was no complacency. But I didn't anticipate it being like that. By halfway, I was thinking, 'Bloody hell, what's going on here?' We were so far down then that we weren't really competing. There was nothing, no fight."

He added: "Mentally, I don't regard it as a disaster. It's actually taken quite a lot of pressure off us. The crews of the other boats will be thinking, well they are beatable. So, it's up to us when we come out to race next time, at Sydney, to give them a slap and say, 'You're not going to win this'."

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