Remembering Sydney: Redgrave wins fifth Olympic gold as GB rowers rule the waves

Remembering Sydney: Redgrave wins fifth Olympic gold as GB rowers rule the waves

23 September 2016 / 06:57

It’s 16 years since the Sydney Olympic Games, when Team GB returned from Australia with 11 golds, 10 silvers and seven bronze medals, which back then was our most successful Games since 1920. It was the first Games that Team GB athletes had benefitted from National Lottery funding, following its introduction in 1997.

Steve Redgrave, Matthew Pinsent, James Cracknell and Tim Foster, Gold, Rowing, coxless four, September 23rd

For many years, Sir Steve Redgrave reigned supreme as Great Britain’s greatest ever Olympian, and is still thought of as just that by many.

And it was on this day, sixteen years ago, that he immortalised himself in British sporting history, winning his fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal, in Sydney.

This time, it was the turn of the coxless four to bring Redgrave home the top prize, with the then 38-year-old rowing to gold alongside crewmates Sir Matthew Pinsent, James Cracknell and Tim Foster.

For Pinsent, it was a third successive Olympic title, having won Great Britain’s only gold of the Games in the pair with Redgrave four years earlier in Atlanta, and a maiden appearance on the Olympic podium for Cracknell and Foster.


After that race, in 1996, Redgrave had given TV viewers permission to shoot him if they ever saw him step in a boat again, but with that British bulldog spirit roaring inside, he was soon back for more.

As has proven to become the norm for the British coxed four ever since, they dominated from the off, with Foster finding the perfect cruising speed to allow them a comfortable lead at the 750m mark.

From then, the Italy quartet gave them a run for their money, but the victory was always Great Britain’s for the taking - they crossed the line 0.38 seconds ahead of the Italians in front of a crowd of 22,000 people, most of whom were waving Union Jacks.

"I knew we had it won after 250 metres,” Redgrave said. “It was all over by then in my eyes. As soon as we were out in front no one was going to go past us.

"Sure, it was desperate and fraught at the end, but we never doubted we would win."

Images of an exhausted Pinsent clambering over Foster to embrace the now five-time Olympic champion Redgrave were broadcast all over the world, before Pinsent promptly fell in the water.


While Redgrave and Foster announced their retirement from the sport after the Games, for Pinsent and Cracknell, it wasn’t to be the end of their Olympic journeys, as they went on to retain their title in Athens four years later,

Redgrave and Pinsent were both knighted for their services to the sport in the aftermaths of their respective retirements, and have since turned their attentions to the media, covering both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games with the BBC.

In 2008, Foster became the head coach of the Swiss national rowing team, while Cracknell continued to push his body to the limits, competing in endurance events across the globe and raising money for charity.

And while the images of the crew’s celebrations in the boat will remain long in the memory of those who witnessed the race, perhaps even more poignant were the words Redgrave was seen to say to his crewmates as they celebrated sweet victory.

"Remember these six minutes for the rest of your lives. Listen to the crowd and take it all in. This is the stuff of dreams."

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