Olympics 1992 Monday 27 July: Pulling Power: Redgrave and Pinsent - Coxless pairs: Heats at 7.0am

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The Independent Online
Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent came together in gloomy circumstances. Redgrave, already twice an Olympic champion was, by the summer of 1990, looking jaded and increasingly concerned with life outside the boat. His coxless pair partnership with Simon Berrisford was not going well, and they were either losing races or failing to take part through injury and illness.

Many outsiders said it was inevitable. Redgrave had been on the go for more than 10 years. In 1980 he had finished second in the junior world championships in a double scull and had not taken a year away from international training and competition since.

Berrisford was diagnosed as having a back injury which would keep him out of the boat until the world championships in Tasmania that November, and Redgrave found himself not only without a crew at the end of the European regatta season but also without a coach, since his long-time mentor, Mike Spracklen, had gone to be national coach in Canada.

His critics wondered whether Redgrave could find the motivation again to pull himself to the top of a sport which demands three to four hours' training day in, day out. He had by then won everything at least once, as well as his Olympic golds. What else was there to go for? And would it be worth the effort?

The rest of the British squad at the time was, as now, awash with big strong boys, many of whom had converted world junior medals into senior bronze medals, but none was quite right as a partner for Redgrave.

The smart answer was that he should give up the pair and go into one of the big boats, like the eight or coxed four, where he could rediscover his racing desire in jovial company and where he didn't have to carry too much of the responsibility for failure. But instead the chief coach of the day, David Tanner, took the risk of removing Matthew Pinsent, then only 19, from the coxless four, and a new world-class partnership was born. They finished third in the Tasmania world championships, with a rather dozy performance, but then came under the care of Jurgen Grobler, one of the diaspora of sports coaches from the former East Germany.

Grobler has transformed them. He has given back to Redgrave the motivation to chase for medals and has given Pinsent the hard basis of physical training that gives him the realistic confidence that they will win.

The pair won the world championships in Vienna last year with a strong tail-wind. They say it doesn't matter, but their huge physical power gives them an advantage in slower, head-wind conditions. In Banyoles, 124km north of the main Olympic centre, there is a 60 per cent chance of a head-wind and a 99 per cent chance that Redgrave will take his third and Matthew Pinsent his first Olympic championship.

(Photograph omitted)