Rowing: Gold medallist evades toil and toilets

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Steve Redgrave, the winner of 16 Henley medals as well as four Olympic golds, has been "excused boots" on his first day as a steward of the Royal Regatta, writes Hugh Matheson.

Each winter, the 50 or so stewards who have owned and run the Regatta since 1839 fill dead men's shoes with new members from the cream of recently retired performers; and in the summer put them to work at the lowliest tasks of running the regatta. Boat tents and latrines are the usual starting point.

At the Olympic Games in Atlanta a year ago Redgrave announced his retirement and was, thus, eligible for promotion to the top deck. But soon his hands were itching for the feel of a blade cutting into water again, and the stewards' star recruit was back in the galley.

Today, and until Sunday, he will parade in best bib and blazer with the polished silver steward's badge passed on to him, reputedly from Gully Nickalls, whose record of seven wins in the coxless pair has only been surpassed by Redgrave. Then it is back to the water to race, fittingly, in the final of the Stewards' Cup for coxless fours.