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Laureation address – Sir Steve Redgrave

Sir Steve Redgrave
Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws

Laureation by Professor Chris Hawkesworth
Deputy Principal and Vice-Principal (Research)
Wednesday 22 June 2011

Sir Steve Redgrave

Vice-Chancellor, it is my privilege to present Sir Steve Redgrave for the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

Quintuple Olympic Gold Medallist Rower, Sir Steve Redgrave, has proved himself the greatest Olympian Britain has ever produced. After striking gold in Sydney 2000, he became our only athlete ever to have won Gold Medals at five consecutive Olympic Games – Los Angeles, Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney.

This stunning achievement puts him in the same league of superlative athletes who are Olympic legends, such as Paavo Nurmi, widely regarded as the greatest track and field athlete, who won nine Gold Medals between 1920 and 1928.

Like Nurmi, Sir Steve Redgrave had confirmed his status as the world’s greatest oarsman long before the Sydney Games. Following four unbeaten seasons from 1993 to 1996, with partner Matthew Pinsent, he won his ninth World Championship Gold in August 1999 in St Catherines, Canada. The irresistible force that was the Pinsent-Redgrave combination broke both the World Record in the Coxless Pairs, in Lucerne in 1994, and the Olympic Record, in Atlanta in 1996.

He is one of a very few rowers to have won Olympic Gold medals rowing on the bow side and the stroke side. His other sporting interests include golf and winter sports, and during the 1989/90 season, he was a member of the British Bobsleigh Team that raced in the World Cup race in Sarajevo in 1989.

Perhaps even more impressive than Steve’s extraordinary athletic performances is the fact that they were achieved against a background of serious debilitating illness. He nearly missed the Atlanta Games due to colitis, for which he still receives treatment, and in 1997 he was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic. But in his words, “he decided that diabetes had to live with me, not me live with it, and so my lifestyle hasn’t changed a great deal, I have to come up with regimes to make it work for me.”

An athlete of this stature deserves to be honoured, and Steve was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List in 1987, and the CBE in 1997. He was appointed Vice-President of the British Olympic Association in November 2000 and he is Honorary Vice-President of Diabetes UK. Sir Steve was knighted in the New Year’s Honours List of 2000.

Since retiring, Sir Steve has focused much of his attention on setting-up his own Charitable Trust, The Steve Redgrave Trust, which aimed at raising £5 million over five years for children’s charities. In the 2006 London Marathon, he broke the record for the most money raised by an individual – a staggering £1.8 million – and in April 2011, Sir Steve was named London Marathon’s top celebrity fundraiser.

Sir Steve played an integral role in the successful London 2012 Olympic bid. He was a key figure in convincing the government and the Mayor of London to back the bid, and he acted as a founding member of the bid and Chairman of the bid’s Athletic Advisory Group.

Despite his many other time commitments, Sir Steve continues his close involvement with rowing albeit in a media capacity, appearing as a regular analyst of televised rowing events. Sir Steve has published six books; his autobiography, ‘A Golden Age’, ‘Inspired’ and ‘Enduring Success’, are particularly notable. ‘Inspired’ is a book in which Sir Steve writes about inspiring stories and characters from the world of sport which he has experienced throughout his life and career. ‘Enduring Success’ is targeted at the business market and was published last year.

These are extraordinary accomplishments, Vice-Chancellor, and in recognition of them and in recognition of his status as a superb role model to our new graduates, I invite you to confer on Sir Steve Redgrave the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

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