Steve Redgrave was spitting nails. A gold-medal winner in four successive Olympics, he came to Sydney as a member of the British coxless four crew that had been seeded fourth--this despite being world champions for three years and undefeated for two. But a single loss this year seemed to send the signal that Redgrave and Co. were finished at the top level.
Last weekend the oarsman who in Atlanta had announced his intention to retire by gasping, "Anyone sees me near a boat again, they can shoot me," converted his fury into a fifth title. "We knew we were going to win," he said after the British boat edged the Italians by the width of an oar. "Most of the racing we do does not have passion. Today had passion."
Redgrave, 38, is the only man to have won gold medals in an endurance sport at five successive Olympics. His roll of honor started in Los Angeles in 1984. In between he has posted nine world championships. "You have to be single-minded about what you're trying to achieve," he says. After his semifinal victory, he looked relaxed, and smiled as he said, "There's a likelihood this could be my last Olympics." Unless someone ticks him off again.
--By Kate Noble