After his Atlanta triumph he said he would never row again, but following a three-month rest the lure of Olympic immortality with a fifth gold medal drew him back to the water.
He has been beaten only once since the crew - with James Cracknell at bow, Matthew Pinsent at stroke and Tim Foster for the first two years in the crucial No 3 seat - was formed, and that was with a late substitute in the boat.
He has carried on winning world titles despite developing insulin-dependent diabetes to add to the colitis he has lived with since 1993. Nevertheless, what seemed likely to be most damaging to the crew's prospects was the loss of Tim Foster, who seemed to be a vital source of the rhythm that carried them through the middle section of races. However, the trials for the successor produced Ed Coode, who has ably grown into the role and yesterday reached the heights of performance to match the other three with his first World Championship gold.
Redgrave calls the tactical moves through the race and is often accused of doing the minimum required to meet what Matthew Pinsent, his stroke man since 1991, calls the "necessity of winning". Pinsent said: "At 37 he finds it difficult to get up for some hack race in the middle of nowhere but he's always there for the big one. It was my best championship race ever. The rhythm was as good as we had in the pair."
They went off the start at a lower number of strokes to the minute than in the early rounds but still pushed ahead of the pack after about 200 metres and by 500 metres they had taken a one-length lead. There was a strong enough tail wind for three world records to have fallen in the morning and the British crew wanted absolute control.
"We let New Zealand back in to the race in the first heat and Australia back into the semi-final. This time we wanted absolute control."
Pinsent set a solid rhythm at 37 strokes to the minute and held exactly the one-length lead for the middle 1,000 metres. He changed nothing as the scrap ebbed and flowed behind him, never looked left or right and just held his stern on the competing bowballs of the chasing pack. Then in the last quarter the Australians broke free and began to close on Britain.
Redgrave, inscrutable behind dark glasses and showing little of the strain running through his body, watched them close up, but when there was still half a length margin, he called for a move, the rate lifted from 38 to 45 strokes to the minute in one beat and they took back the missing half- length of their lead in the 20 strokes left to the line. Pinsent raised his outside arm before they crossed the finish in a gesture of celebration of their absolute mastery of the event.
The men's lightweight eight finished the day with a rousing race to take the silver medal. Coming from the middle of the pack behind an American eight that had taken a decisive lead from Italy at halfway, they put in the fastest second half. The chief coach, Jurgen Grobler, had told them to race for bronze rather than striking out in front trying to win it and the advice paid off with their best race of the season.