Rowing: Redgrave assays value of gold: Hugh Matheson on a dilemma for Britain's elite oarsmen

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The Independent Online
LAST August the British television audience came to its feet to praise the efforts of Steve Redgrave and his partner Matthew Pinsent in winning their Olympic event by a huge margin and in the fastest time ever. Six months later, after the usual spread of television appearances and a generous handout of four MBEs at the New Year, Britain's Olympic champions in rowing are without the money to train properly for 1993, let alone 1996.

Redgrave, who has an arrangement with Atholl Still, a firm of sponsorship agents, has said that fees from public appearances, and one product endorsement, have left him with enough money to train for another two months and that then he must give up his ambitions to become the first oarsman to win four Olympics. Pinsent can complete his training with the Oxford Boat Race squad, but after graduation this summer he too will be faced with a stark choice.

One sponsorship from Russell Athletic involves training clothes and pounds 1,000 each. Other sources include the Sports Aid Foundation, which is able to provide about pounds 8,000 per year to gold medallists, and, every fourth year, the British Olympic Association.

However, none of that comes near to the pounds 50,000 which it costs to win or retain a World Championship in a small boat like the coxless pair of Redgrave and Pinsent. The coxed pair of the Searle brothers would cost more.

Since the break-up of East Germany it has become easier for Westerners to win medals because the cradle-to-grave care that the DDR athletes enjoyed has ceased. But the coaches who created that environment are now spread all through the West and those who want to compete at the top are almost obliged to train at their tempo. Redgrave is coached by Jurgen Grobler, the former head of the East German women's team and now chief men's coach in Great Britain. Grobler's schedule rules out all but part-time work.

There is hope that the Foundation for Sports and the Arts may pass some of the proposed national lottery money to rowing. However, none of that money will be available for the next two seasons and Redgrave, now 30, will not be able to drop the sport and make a comeback.

Michael Sweeney, the former Great Britain rower, has replaced Peter Coni as the chairman of Henley committee of management. Coni has resigned because of ill-health.

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