After a draining race in Atlanta, Sir Steve Redgrave uttered the now famous words to the British public: “If you ever see me in a boat, you have permission to shoot me.”
He had just claimed his fourth Olympic gold medal in the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996. He had battled through adversity, overcoming injuries and battling with severe illnesses including being diagnosed ulcerative colitis, a severe disease of the intestine.
Despite these tribulations he had claimed a fourth consecutive gold medal. His affairs immediately turned to enjoying Disneyland with his family and enjoying a hard earned break from rowing. Though thoughts of Sydney had already crept into his mind.
So it defied belief that at 10:30am on Penrith Lake on the morning of September 23, 2000, Redgrave was a member of the British coxless four preparing to endure around six minutes of physical hell.
The lure of Sydney proved too strong for the ever ambitious Redgrave. He had to endure the removal of his appendix, had injured his arm and been diagnosed with diabetes in the intermittent years between Atlanta and Syndey.
But this was not enough to deter the British Trojan.
Redgrave was looking to claim an unprecedented fifth goal medal in an endurance Olympic sport and cement his position as a true great of the Olympic Games.
The 38-year-old was joined by Sir Matthew Pinsent, Tim Foster and James Cracknell as they looked to overcome a field of six in the final, with the Australians and the Italians the main threats to first place.
Thousands of British supporters lined the banks of the regatta course. Over 6.5 millions British viewers tuned in to watch the final and witness what has been voted in many polls as the greatest British moment in sport.
Great Britain had moved into an early lead, reaching the 500m mark in front of their competitors. At this point both Redgrave and Pinsent have confessed they knew the race was won.
But nevertheless, the Italians launched an assault on the length-and-a-half lead, providing a nervy few minutes for British fansÃ‚Â acrossÃ‚Â the globe.
But Sir Matthew Pinsent, who was racing to secure a third gold and has since claimed a fourth, kept a sharp eye on the movements of the Filippi boat in second place. He raised the rate in accordance to the threatÃ‚Â emanatingÃ‚Â from lane five.
Ultimately, Redgrave and his courageous crew-mates clung on by 0.44 seconds to ensure the British national anthem would be blasted across the placid lake and honour the final achievement of one its greatest-ever athletes.
Redgrave spoke to the media after the race and said: “Sure, it was desperate and fraught at the end, but we never doubted we would win. It has been four years of hard work.”
“It was close, but that doesn’t matter. Second best is not good enough; it’s who crosses the line first.”
Sir Steve Redgrave has gone on to claim a host of personal accolades including BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2000. His Olympic success in Sydney was the beginning of what would be a glorious decade of Sport for Britain.
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