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Monday, 25 September, 2000, 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK
Is Redgrave the greatest ever Olympian?
Steve Redgrave
Steve Redgrave duly won his fifth Olympic gold medal with able support from his team-mates in the British coxless four boat in Sydney.

Certainly his achievement cements his place in British and indeed Olympic history, but does it make him the greatest Olympian ever?

An unprecedented fifth straight title in an endurance event has secured Henley-based Steve Redgrave his status as Britain's finest ever rower and indeed Olympic 'achiever.'

But how does his fantastic record on the world's biggest stage measure up to that of other sporting greats?

Only one man, Hungarian fencer Aladar Gerevich, who won six gold medals between 1932 and 1960, has struck gold at more Games.

But American athletes Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens merit serious consideration for their tremendous feats, Lewis for his all-round excellence as a sprint star and long-jump legend and Owens for his achievements in the face of racial as well as other sporting pressures.

Mark Spitz meanwhile made the Munich Olympics his own in 1972 with an astounding clean sweep of seven gold medals in the pool across the freestyle and butterfly disciplines.

So how does Redgrave's roll of honour rate against these and other great athletes, and is he the greatest ever Olympian?


The grit and determination shown over 20 years (don't forget he only just missed out on Rome aged 18). The dedication to the daily grind of training, the battle against debilitating illness, these are the stuff of which heroes are made. When those lead to such sustained success you stay up into the night and your heart pounds in your chest, as you will such a hero to succeed once more. This is what makes Steve Redgrave the greatest Olympian. The spirit he evokes shows sport in its best light
Paula, UK

There is little to say about Steve Redgrave that hasn't already been said on this site. But in comparing him with Carl Lewis and co, it would be easy to forget the enormous financial sacrifice that he (and his family) has made over the years. Rowing remains notoriously underfunded, yet Steve continued his absolute bloody-minded pursuit of gold even in years when he was faced with little or no income. Lewis, on the other hand, is fabulously wealthy and has never had to worry about making ends meet away from the track. Sports Personality of the Year? No one has ever deserved it more.
Harry Tayler, UK

Steve deserves all the accolades that are heaped upon him
  Tish, UK
Over the past eight years since Barcelona I have watched British rowing avidly. Steve Redgrave is truly the greatest ever Olympian that has been produced in the UK, and as Matthew Pinsent said "arguably in the world". It is not just the winning, but Steve has promoted a sport which has for years been seen as an 'elite sport' - not anymore though, with people like Redgrave, Pinsent, Foster and Cracknell, maybe the UK can produce another Steve Redgrave - a remarkable feat. Congratulations Steve.
Emma Whyte, England

Rowers have shown through physiological testing and in competition with other athletes to have superior all around athleticism in terms of power, strength and endurance. At the top of any sport there is fierce competition, no matter how broad or narrow the base is perceived to be. I don't denigrate any acheivements of any Olympians, but to try and say that the four consecutive gold medals of Lewis in the long jump is better than, or should be seen as superior to, five golds by Steve in such a gruelling endurance sport is definitely mistaken. Steve deserves all the accolades that are heaped upon him - and maybe this time the British public will finally wake up to the fact that he is the Sports Personality of the Year.
Tish, UK

To succeed so many times, especially fighting illness as he has been in the last three years must make this man one of our top atheletes. He has a wonderful personality and generosity about him which should be recognised by the British public.
Rebecca Tait, UK

Steve has perfomed fantastically well to win 5 successive golds - but to put his achievement into perspective, how many people actually participate in the sport of rowing? There are only a limited number of other athletes for him to beat because it's not a sport open to everyone for reasons of cost, availability of equipment, facilities, lakes / rivers to row on etc!! So in winning 5 successive golds, he's actually only proving himself the best amongst a fairly small and finite pool of people. Rowing is certainly hugely less competitive than say a running event which everyone across the world could have a go at. As a competive achievement, I don't think Redgrave's five golds is as great as say Carl Lewis' 4 successive long jump golds or Lewis' nine golds in all or Jesse Owens 1936 haul. Merely within the realm of track and field, others also deserve a mention - Al Oerter's 4 discus golds, Zelezny's 3 javelin wins. We've also got to take into consideration that Redgrave is in a team event. Lewis, Owens, Oerter and co. were out there on their own (except in the relays of course!) So Redgrave's done well, but he's in no way proved himself the best ever Olympian ever.
Rob, UK

He is not only the greatest Olympian, he could even be the greatest athlete of the 20th century
  Gwilym, Wales
You won't find many more physically demanding sports than rowing: you have to put the strength of nearly every muscle in your body against the force of all that water. It's like weightlifting over and over again over a two-kilometre course. Compare the way athletes in different sports look at the end of their races. The utter exhaustion of the rowers when they finish is only really comparable with that of marathon runners. I think that Redgrave winning a gold medal at five consecutive Olympics is a great and unique achievement.
Lucy Alder, UK

I just felt such a sense of pride when the coxless four crossed the line, especially since the boat contained the greatest Olympic athlete in history. Steve Redgrave's achievements in an endurance sport far outweigh anything that has gone on before. It's even more remarkable when you consider the problems he faced along the way. He must be knighted!
David Green, England

Redgrave has achieved something that no other sportsman has ever even come close to. Winning five gold medals in five consecutive Olympics, and in the process comprehensively dominating such a physically demanding sport for almost 20 years, is a feat of superhuman proportions. In this respect, he is not only the greatest Olympian, he could even be the greatest athlete of the 20th century.
Gwilym, Wales

Anyone who watched 'Gold Fever' has to realise that Steve Redgrave has to be recognized as the greatest Olympian ever
  Samantha, UK
Anyone who watched 'Gold Fever' has to realise that Steve Redgrave has to be recognized as the greatest Olympian ever. The degree of pain that rowers endure to perform at their peak is beyond compare. They are all superhuman!
Samantha, UK

Steve Redgrave... well, what can you say? To be at the top of a sport as physically demanding as rowing for more than 16 years and to win your fifth gold medal after being diagnosed with diabetes... there can be no other word for it but 'great'. I expect him to be knighted before too long. Do not forget about Matthew however, he's got three now and he's eight years younger than Steve. He's on schedule, so to say. Thanks to Steve and Matt (and Tim and James) for the inspiration and continue to be for rowers all over the world. And congrats to the whole of the UK for their outstanding performance throughout the entire regatta.
Fabian van Langevelde, Holland

Steve Redgrave's achievement is phenomenal. To achieve this level of consistency in the face of the medical conditions with which he has battled reveals an exceptional individual. Both he and Matthew Pinsent are wonderful diplomats for the nation and for their sport.
Jeanette Gabbitas, UK

There is absolutely no doubt that Redgrave is the greatest Olympian of all time, not only because nobody has ever won five consecutive golds in an event that requires incredible levels of athleticism, but because he has had to overcome so many problems with his health in the last two years.....and rowing does not yield the financial rewards that atheletics does. He is an example to us all and a knighthood and automatic winning of Sports Personality of the Year are the least he deserves.
Andrew Clay, UK

He deserves all the adulation possible, expecially in one of the toughest endurance sports possible
  Jason Grimshaw, England
What a man, what a hero! As an individual he has overcome great personal difficulties just to continue training never mind competing. Then to come to Sydney at 38-years-old and compete in what must be one of the hardest endurance sports (barring the multi-discipline events) and to win a gold medal in an event which he (and his crews) have dominated for 20 years is a quite remarkable feat. If you thought that superman was a comic-book hero, think again. I believe that the crew should be given team personality of the year and Steven himself should be given personality of the year. Perhaps a knighthood would also be appropriate. What will he turn his prodigous talents to next?
Mark Gurney, England

He deserves all the adulation possible, expecially in one of the toughest endurance sports possible. To be at the pinnacle of his sport for over 16 years is remarkable. Athletes will surpass his record hall but what they will not pass is his career span. The guy is a true champion.
Jason Grimshaw, England

He simply is the best. England isn't renouned for its excellent facilities and financial support for its sportsmen and women so together with his additional personal hardship of diabetes and bowel illness - it is all the more remarkable that he has achieved what he has achieved. My hat also goes off to his family because I am sure that without their support Steve wouldn't have become what he now is - simply No.1
Tracey Boorman, England

For a man who is a year older than myself to win his fifth gold medal in such a tough endurance feat is phenomenal. Since I can remember watching him in Barcelona he has been my sporting hero. Well done Steve and let's not forget the others in the team.
Paul Thompson, Wales

He is truely awesome and a role model for the next generation of British sports men and women
  Richard Sullivan, England
Yes! Redgrave epitomises the spirit of competition in a sport not known for its financial rewards. To obtain a fifth straight gold despite an ageing body and diabetes is magnificent. The UK must recognise this legendary performance.
Nick O'Gorman, UK

Seb Coe and Daley Thompson were winning gold medals when Steve won his first. They are great British olympians but even they could not compete at the highest level over 5 different olympics. He is truely awesome and a role model for the next generation of British sports men and women.
Richard Sullivan, England

It is a fantastic achievement to be at the top of your sport for 16 years. Carl Lewis wasn't at the top for as long but he competed in three different events. I think both are equally amazing in their achievements. Redgrave is without a doubt the greatest British Olympian ever.
Iain, Scotland

For Steve Redgrave to have 5 golds in 5 games in such a sport, he has to be the greatest Olympian. No other "great" can command such dominance over such an era. Mark Spitz dominated the Olympics as he peaked for a week, what about 16 years! The presentation of the special Olympic pin said it all.
Dave Boorman, England

There are a lot of athletes that will win more than 5 gold medals, indeed some will win 5 golds in one Olympics, but to dominated a sport for 16 years, to win 5 gold medals in five straight Olympics has to be better than the likes of Maurice Green or Marion Jones who will never be able to dominate their sport over a similar period .That is the sign of a true Olympian and he deserves all the praise he gets!
Tim Smith, UK

If any Australian ever matches Steve Redgrave's feat they will surely be made Prime Minister for life. All sport fans salute you, well done Steve.
Michael Roseworn, Australia

Steven Redgrave's performances show he has been at his peak for 16 years - he is the finest ever Olympian
  Name Here
Steve's victory is a defining moment in the history of British sport and the Olympic games. I will be able to tell my children "I was there". In my opinion Steve is the greatest sportsman the world has ever seen. Sadly, you wouldn't know he'd even raced from the Aussie press coverage!
Ken Poole, England. Australia

I was 5 years old when Steve Redgrave won his first gold. I can't remember that one but I can remember the gold he one at Seoul. I remember him saying "this is the one we wanted, 88 gold". Well he wanted another 3 after that too, and now as a 21 year old I don't know what to say. It's a pity that he will probably not recieve due recognition outside Britain. I'm in Sydney, and no one here's really raised an eye-brow at it. In fact the TV coverage wouldn't even give Steve and the boys the courtesy of broadcasting the national anthem at the medal ceremony - they were more interested in their bronze-medal "awesome foursome". No other country has an endurance athlete of the same longevity and dominance to boast of that we now do. I guess it will be strange for the guy not having an Olympics to train for anymore!
Christian Anderson, Australia

"Phil, USA" has got it all wrong and reiterates the blinkered nature of US society. Marion Jones may get 5 gold medals in one games. That shows she has been at her peak for two weeks. Steven Redgrave's performance shows he has been at his peak for 16 years. He is the finest ever Olympian.
Jeremy Marchant, UK

Certainly, Steven Redgrave, is one of the outstanding athletes of the modern day Olympic Games. On your web-site you mention several athletes, but do not mention Emil Zatopek, who in 1952 gained gold medals in the 5,000, 10,000 metres and the Marathon. But Redgrave has to come out on top because of the number of Olympics that he has competed in.
Avis Raynor, England

The supreme level of mental and physical fitness over the five Olympics makes him the greatest
  Mo Whittam, UK
Although I am not an avid rowing fan, I stayed up until 2am to see Redgrave acheive an amazing, and fully deserved fifth gold. He is a true gentleman, modest and calm. He has given everything to the UK for over a decade, and is an inspiration to everyone. I hope he now receives the highest reward this country can give him. Well done Steve and co. You have - yet again - made your country proud.
Sarah, Suffolk, UK

No-one else could ever be better than Steve Redgrave. He has got to be the finest Britain have ever had.
Jonathan, Wolverhampton, England

'Sir' Steve is an inspiration to us all. He overcame illness to achieve this fantastic 5th Gold and now goes in the history books as the World's Greatest Olympic Champion!
Louise Hudson, Great Britain

This was the only event I stayed up for, and it was truly amazing to watch. Steve Redgrave is an true example of what a sporting hero is really about. To achieve what he has done is amazing, and what is so special is how he is so modest about it all. I just hope he becomes Sir Steve Redgrave and show kids how you should behave as a sports person.
Nick Bright, England

Steve Redgrave is a credit to British Sport - he is by far the greatest olympian ever
  Rob Newbold, UK
The victory of the coxless four was truly inspirational. Their pictures will be on my classroom wall again and this time I'm sure my pupils will know exactly who Steve is and recognise his great achievement. The greatest modern day Olympian for sure. By sustaining the supreme level of mental and physical fitness over the five Olympics makes him the greatest we have ever seen in my opinion.
Mo Whittam, UK

He's the best. Knight him.
Holly Nickson, UK

Apparently the Oxford English Dictionary are replacing the definition of the word Olympian; it will just say, See Redgrave. Without question, Steve Redgrave is the greatest Olympian of all time, most other achievements have been short lived i.e. one or two games, this acheivement is incredible.
Donald, Scotland

Steve Redgrave is a credit to British Sport. He is by far the greatest olympian ever. What a fantastic achievement to win another gold at an endurance event when in the last four years being diagnosed diabetic. Steve Redgrave BBC Sports Personality Of The Year 2000!! Well done Sir Steve!!
Rob Newbold, UK

I don't think Steve should be singled out as the greatest ever--I think instead he should stand alongside amazing Olympians such as Owens, Lewis and Spitz, who each in their own different ways are equally brilliant and equally deserving of that "greatest ever" tag.
Ravi Hiranand, England

There can be absolutely no doubt that Steve Redgrave is the greatest British Olympian of all time.
  Matthew Sanger

There can be absolutely no doubt that Steve Redgrave is the greatest British Olympian of all time. In today's games, there is greater and tougher competition so to remain at the pinnacle for sixteen years is simply incredible. The fact that his position at the top has been achieved in the face of poor funding for minority sports from government and business should also be testament to his supreme ability. Congratulations to Steve and the rest of the crew on your achievement and I just hope that this inspires our nation to get involved and back all of sport in the way it truly deserves.
Matthew Sanger, USA but from Great Britain

Redgrave has proved he is one of the most outstanding athletes. He has not performed across a range of disciplines like Spitz or Lewis, but he has remained at the top of his sport for 16 years. This alone makes him extra-ordinary.
Perhaps he may try and make it six! Well done, at last the UK is having a good Olympics.
Sean, England but currently in Melbourne, Australia

People use the phrase 'greatest' far too often in modern sport. In Lord Redgrave we have an Olympian and a man more deserving of the word great than any other athlete in the history of this country and probably the world. For lifting a nations hopes and proving anything is possible I thank you.
Simon Hopper, England

Marion Jones might just equal his record of 5 gold medals in this, her first Olympic games. So please, while Redgrave is one of Britain's finest Olympians, he is certainly not the finest Olympian!
  Phil, USA
Time after time,win after win, gold after gold,what a personal triumph, for Steven Redgrave and the British Crew. Steven, now has the set of 5 Golds,and the five rings! Which makes him, the Greatest ever Olympian in modern times.
Keith and Jean ex-pats, USA

A fantastic effort that none watching will ever forget. One of the greatest moments in Olympic history, even for those of us with an interest in another camp. Sincere and heartfelt congratulations.
Gary Gibson, Australia

Steve Redgrave is a credit to his sport, his family, the Olympic movement and everybody in this country. On behalf of all british sports lovers, we salute you. Steve Redgrave is truly the greatest.
Steve Jones, UK

Certainly one of the greatest Olympians, especially as he started as a true amateur
  Lawrie Jones, Wales

Both Pinsent and Redgrave deserve their place among the greats. They have three qualities needed in a champion: a dertermination to a succeed no matter what, an amazing modesty, and a respect for all their opponents and each other, which only great champions can have.
Matthew Wegner, UK

Certainly one of the greatest Olympians, especially as he started as a true amateur. Definitely the greatest British Olympian.
Lawrie Jones, Wales

In 1920 my grandfather, Paul Radmilovic, won his fourth Olympic gold medal by scoring the winning goal for the British Water Polo Team against the Belgians in the Antwerp Games. 80 years later, his record of the largest number of gold medals won by a British sportsman, has finally been broken. I am absolutely delighted that Steve Redgrave has achieved this historic accomplishment, and my warmest congratulations go to him and his coxless four teammates. We have waited a long time for such great news for British sport.
Tony Siddall, England

He deserves a knighthood at the very least.
Pete Evans, UK

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