Redgrave ready to retire

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The Independent Online

Steve Redgrave, whose feats as an Olympian will probably never be equalled, has announced that he is to retire from international rowing.

Steve Redgrave, whose feats as an Olympian will probably never be equalled, has announced that he is to retire from international rowing.

Redgrave, who became the dominant athlete of the Sydney Olympics with his record haul of five gold medals since 1984, will continue to train at a lower intensity and will compete in some domestic competitions in the next two years, but the new regime will release him from the treadmill of Olympic competition.

The 38-year-old said he had never intended to carry on competing after last month's Sydney games, which saw him collect his fifth gold medal in the men's coxless fours.

But Redgrave, a rower for 20 years, said he had delayed the announcement for the sake of his sponsors - and because no-one would believe him after a previous pledge to quit four years ago.

"We decided we would have a separate conference, let the dust settle, so hopefully when I do make the announcement everyone believes me," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

His elation at winning another gold, and the rapturous reception he was given on arrival back in Britain, had made him consider carrying on, he admitted.

"You think like that every time you are successful," he said.

But the thoughts of the gruelling training schedule needed to have another crack at the medals in four years' time finally persuaded him to quit, he said.

"You think of the long winter training and the amount of work that has got to be done and all the sort of commitment you have to put in to it," he told the programme.

"You think 'no I don't really want to go through that any more'.

"I want to have my life back to my myself in some respects and have the situation where I am in charge of which direction I go."

He is retiring at the top after 24 years in the sport - 16 of them as the reigning Olympic champion. Seven million people in Britain stayed up until half past midnight to watch his triumphant swansong in the men's coxless fours in Sydney.

Redgrave led the extremely successful sprint rowing event on Dorney Lake three weeks after his Sydney victory and he wants to extend the idea widely, including abroad. The new variant of the sport must have him as its chief attraction if it is to be successful.

He has talked since the Olympics about other crews in which he could train, including a version of the quadruple scull in which he first raced as a senior international. It is widely expected that he will seek a place in one of the top eights to win the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta next summer. Redgrave, a steward of the regatta for the past four years, has won all the senior events except the Grand.

At the beginning of his career, Redgrave was successful because he was stronger than anyone he raced. He has remained a winner because he has developed a ruthless determination and resilience in the most physically demanding of events.

Redgrave has suffered from colitis, a permanent inflammation of the bowel since 1992, with the added problem of diabetes since 1997. The conditions are related and both can be the consequence of stress. Another Olympic campaign would be almost bound to bring on either an unwelcome intensification of his medical problems or something new. It is also true that standards rise every year and for Athens 2004 he would have to find a few percent more even than he found this year.

Redgrave will continue training because it is what suits him best but in his case the chief difficulty will be to manage his diabetes properly without the huge demands of exercise that his body is attuned to. He will now be free to enjoy a home life. When the British team for 2001 are in training camp this winter he will be skiing with his family.