Redgrave the home-town hero is hailed by 30,000

A crowd of 30,000 defied the damp and chilly weather to give five-time Olympic gold winner Steve Redgrave a hero's welcome in his home town of Marlow yesterday.

A crowd of 30,000 defied the damp and chilly weather to give five-time Olympic gold winner Steve Redgrave a hero's welcome in his home town of Marlow yesterday.

The 38-year-old builder's son, who has spent his life in and around the Buckinghamshire town, won a record-breaking fifth Olympic gold medal in Sydney last month with Britain's coxless four.

Thousands have turned out for his appearances in Britain since his success on Penrith Lake, Sydney, in a nail-biting final which turned Redgrave into a reluctant household name and sparked an unprecedented interest in the sport.

Yesterday Redgrave toured Marlow on an open-top bus, stopping along the way to shake hands with well-wishers, before attending a civic reception with local dignitaries.

"Marlow's very special to me. I'm enjoying the moment and enjoying the day. There's just so many people here that there's no way to walk through them," said Redgrave as he made his way down to the river through the crowds with his wife Ann, a GP who practises in nearby Henley-on-Thames.

Later, he thanked the crowds for supporting him and promised to sign as many autographs as possible.

Redgrave won his fifth successive gold alongside Matthew Pinsent, Tim Foster and James Cracknell. Redgrave won his first gold medal in Los Angeles in 1984, rowing in the coxed four followed by three golds as a member of the coxless pair in Seoul in 1988, Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996 (the last two with Pinsent as his team-mate).

Despite his wife's warning that their marriage would be placed under intolerable pressure by an attempt to win an extraordinary sixth gold in four years' time, Redgrave has so far refused to rule it out.

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