Sir Steve Redgrave's steeliness helped him combat ‘genetic disadvantages’ and become a Team GB immortal – and Elstow rowing ace George Reed wants to follow in his footsteps. Bedfordshire’s George, 19, knows exactly what made the five-time Olympic gold medallist so special.
At just over six foot four inches, Steve was considerably shorter than most other Olympic rowers but used technical proficiency – and a rock-solid resilience – to soar to the top of the podium in Los Angeles, Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney.
George is a similar height to Steve, rows for the same club as the nine-time world champion – the prestigious Leander Club, in Henley – and hopes to take valuable lessons from the most successful rower in Games history.
“He’s massive,” said George. “He’s one of the very few who have won gold medals for five consecutive Olympic Games, which is just insane. You get introduced to the sport and you start to know who these people are, and you’re like ‘wow’. Whatever you want to achieve and go on to do – it is possible. It’s just crazy.
“Most Olympic rowers are really big and tall. He’s only six foot four and a bit, so he’s definitely got that mental fortitude. That’s something that I like – I like it when rowers have good mental toughness, because if you don’t have all the long levers like everyone else, you’ve got to go down different other forms in the sport. It’s just crazy what he did and achieved.
“Because he’s shorter he had to be very technically accurate. If you have those longer levers, you can get away with a lot more if you’re four or five inches taller than them because you have that genetic advantage. There’s a saying that if you’re not tall you have to be wide – you have to get in the gym and go down different other ways. You’ve got to have that mental drive if you’re not physically and genetically gifted.”
George's rowing journey is funded by an innovative partnership between Entain – owner of Ladbrokes and Coral – and SportsAid. The injection of cash helps him access funding for training, travel, equipment and mentoring and is accelerating his pursuit of success at Under-23s level.
George is about to make the transition up from the Under-20s and knows the next few years will be crucial in his development. He’s due to enrol at Durham University in September and hopes studying a Sport and Exercise Science Degree – at John Snow College – can further his progression in the water.
George, who is currently on a gap year, added: “The Olympics are the long-term aim. I’m still quite young – I’ve just finished my junior career and am going onto the Under-23s level. I’ve got four or five years of that which could be good, and it’s about wherever my Under-23s experience excels and takes me.
“I’ve just got to keep on with the training and stay highly-motivated during these current circumstances. But I can definitely see light at the end of the tunnel. I’m going to go to Durham, get a good degree out of it and excel in my rowing as much as I can. Life around Durham will be great – it’s a beautiful place and I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be great.”
Entain is proud to be championing the next generation of British sporting heroes by providing talented young athletes with financial support and personal development opportunities in partnership with SportsAid. Please visit entaingroup.com/entain-foundation to find out more!