Five minutes with Sir Steve Redgrave

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The Diamond Jubilee Rowing Championships were a landmark moment for British rowing – illustrating the revamped format that future national championships are likely to follow.

Patrick Keefe, of the Young Person’s Panel, caught up with British Rowing legend Sir Steve Redgrave at the one-off event, to get his views on some of the hot topics in UK rowing.

On the DJRC…

“The concept of the Regatta is fantastic – a Jubilee year and a Jubilee Regatta. But what it will turn into next year is British Rowing’s National Championships.

“As a former athlete, not being able to compete in our national championships – because it was right in the middle of the international season – was a bit of a frustration.

“I’ve got a number of [national] gold medals from the early part of my career but certainly, when I was at the height of it, I never had that many opportunities to compete in Great Britain.

“So it’s fantastic, from that point of view, and the racing has been fantastic here too.”

On the new U19 rowing category…

 In this country, because we’re performing so well at the highest level, it makes it very difficult to make the senior team – in men’s women’s and lightweights [rowing].

“You need that stepping stone. When I was a junior coming through, if you didn’t go straight from the junior team into the senior team then it probably wasn’t worth carrying on your dream of trying to get to the highest level.

“The U23s was looked upon as being a bit of a joke really – it was the event that you did if you couldn’t make the national team.

“Because British Rowing has changed so much, the U23 is your way through to the senior team – so to have a level below that makes a lot of sense.

“We lose a lot of good potential athletes who come through the junior system and get a bit disillusioned with it, and it is a big stepping stone up to the next level. So another category in there, to me, makes a lot of sense.

On the GB Rowing Team’s Start Programme…

“All the programmes that are out there to get people into the sport are very valid. From Sporting Giants to the Start Programme – getting people that are the right size and have the aptitude of being great rowers is a great thing.

“As a human race, we all like doing things that we’re good at and we’ll avoid things that we’re bad at. So if we can find people who potentially could be good at rowing, and they like it (there’s more than just size when it comes to being a great rower), then it’s a good starting point.”

On starting a new Olympiad…

“For the rowers that competed at London, Rio will be distant – but it will be the motivating factor of coming back. World Championships are good, but once you have competed at an Olympic Games, they’re just stepping stones.

“I always found the start of a new Olympiad exciting and fresh. It wasn’t until the first circuit training that you asked the question “why”! But the camaraderie and team elements of the sport soon takeover.

“Physically, it becomes harder. You know you have to do more training, more hours, more preparation.  But mentally it gets easier – you feel that this is the last chance; “I’ve got to get it right this time”. As they say – you are a long time retired…”

For a video of Sir Steve’s interview at the DJRC, visit www.facebook.com/wessexrowing. Photos of the event are available on British Rowing’s Facebook page.

Reporting by Patrick Keefe (Young Person’s Panel) and The Stream.

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