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2020 Summer Olympics

China lights the torch for Olympic glory by hiring five-time rowing gold medallist Steve Redgrave

Highly decorated Briton’s role as performance director is to drive popularity of the sport and impart wisdom to athletes ahead of Tokyo 2020

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2018, 11:58am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2018, 11:58am

Olympic legend Steve Redgrave has joined the Chinese rowing team, coming aboard in the newly created role of high performance director as China targets at least two medals at Tokyo in 2020.

The BBC reported the appointment with Redgrave saying “the opportunity was totally unexpected”.

One of Britain’s most decorated Olympians, Redgrave won five golds in a row from 1984 to 2000 and is the most successful male rower.

Redgrave won six Olympic medals, 12 World Championships medals and three more at the Commonwealth Games in his illustrious career before hanging up his oars after the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

China’s sole Olympic gold came at Beijing 2008 in the women’s quadruple sculls after they overtook the British team, but they have won nine medals in total since their first Olympic rowing appearance in 1984 at Los Angeles, the same Olympics as Redgrave’s debut and first gold.

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The Times said Redgrave would not coach the rowers but would teach the coaches with the main aim of improving the sport and its popularity in China.

His role is reported to start in Belgrade on Friday when the first of the summer’s three World Rowing Cup regattas begins in Belgrade, Serbia.

The Global Times reported last December that the Chinese Rowing Association has targeted two medals at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

This would match the last Olympics where China’s women won two bronzes in Rio in 2016.

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Analysis

If China wants to improve the popularity of the sport then what better way than the most decorated rower and a man whose fame has not diminished despite not competing for 18 years? Redgrave will surely not come cheap but he retains the cachet of a multiple gold medallist. Chinese sports often look to former stars to act as ambassadors and drive interest so this could work in that regard and if he can also add his insight to the rowers and their coaches then this will be a success.