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  Sunday, 10 December, 2000, 23:14 GMT
Champion's long wait is over
Steve Redgrave, Tanni Grey-Thompson and Denise Lewis
Steve Redgrave, Tanni Grey-Thompson and Denise Lewis
Steve Redgrave lifted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award and admitted it was the one honour he felt he would never achieve.

Despite a succession of Olympic and World Championship golds, Redgrave never did better than second in the annual poll.

In 1996, after his fourth Olympic victory, he was beaten by racing driver Damon Hill.

But another gold in Australia with Matthew Pinsent, James Cracknell and Tim Foster in the coxless fours made him an almost unbackable odds-on favourite this time.

"I never really thought that a sport like rowing would ever get recognised because it is not one of the major sports in this country," Redgrave told BBC Sport Online after the ceremony.

"Each four years when we got our profile Olympics, Matthew and I have sat in the audience and he would say if I carry on for another four years and we win then it has got to be you.

"Then four years would come and four years would go and you think, 'No,' it is probably never going to happen."

Hardships

But Redgrave thinks the reason for this year's success was not because of his record-breaking achievement in Sydney but more the public's sense of the team's triumph over adversity.

"I think the whole experience of the build up towards the race captured the imagination of the people who saw the hardships we had all gone through," he said.

"There was Tim with his back and hand, the illnesses we had, my diabetis and then there was the Olympic Fever series we did for the BBC."

Furthermore, Redgrave believes the team's one failure as a four just before the Olympics, when they were beaten at the World Cup in Lucerne, made the nation take note.

"A lot of people suddenly thought, 'Are we going to do it?' It was not a foregone conclusion," he said.

"With the excitement of the race and how close and exciting it was, it captured the imagination of people not only here at home but all around the world."

Redgrave said he had been overwhelmed by the warmth he had received from the public since the Olympics.

"I expected more coverage and more public adulation but never to this degree," he said.

The award comes at the end of an epic sporting year but with Redgrave retiring it will prove a fitting climax to an epic career.

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