Sir Steve Redgrave is no longer in the running to be the new performance director at British Rowing, but a role with USRowing still hangs in the balance.
Redgrave was one of a handful of candidates interviewed for the British Rowing performance director post on Friday 26th November. It is understood that Martin McElroy and Louise Kingsley made it through to the final round of interviews, but Sir Steve did not. Kingsley is GB’s Para Rowing performance director – she took the role following a long stint as a GB Rowing high performance coach and after rowing joined the Paralympic program in 2006. McElroy famously coached the GB men’s eight alongside Harry Mahon ahead of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games where their crew secured Olympic gold. McElroy is the former performance director at Rowing Ireland and Rowing Canada Aviron before coaching in China.
Early speculation that Redgrave’s bid to land a leadership role with either the British or the US was a ploy to leverage a better deal with China, seems unlikely given the exodus of his colleagues Paul Thompson and Martin McElroy. China’s zero tolerance Covid policy and the uncertainty of international travel in the Covid-era makes the life of an expat that bit tougher, and the pull for home greater.
Redgrave previously showed interest in leading the British rowers to Tokyo 2020, after Sir David Tanner stepped down as performance director but was dissuaded from making a formal application by British Rowing who opted for Brendan Purcell. Although Redgrave was the Honorary President of British Rowing from 2001 to 2013 he never played a direct role in preparing Great Britain’s Olympic athletes since retiring as an athlete himself. So, perhaps he was not an obvious candidate when British Rowing were searching for a new Performance Director in 2018. Ultimately Redgrave was signed by China and led their team to a commendable one gold and two bronzes at Tokyo 2020.
According to the South China Morning Post, Redgrave’s time with China runs to Paris 2024. In their post-Olympic interview with Redgrave, he said of his long term prospects, “I have to assess if my bosses still want me, if I have a future and we’ll have to see from there.”
In October, stateside excitement grew when Olympian cox Katelin Guregian posted a picture of her and Redgrave and told her Instagram followers, “…this Olympic legend is coming to @usrowing as HPD for Paris…” Amanda Kraus, the chief executive of USRowing, confirmed the rumours that USRowing were in talks with Redgrave while, “pushing forward an ambitious high-performance plan for Paris 2024, LA 2028 and beyond”.
Was the prospect of leading the US to LA 2028 the driving force behind Redgrave’s interest in USRowing? Ending an Olympic odyssey from whence it began, undoubtedly appeals to the narrative-driven sportswriter, but it surely appeals to Redgrave too. The five-time Olympic champion made his Olympic debut and started his winning ways at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Redgrave brings a marketable clout to any role he secures. An ambassador for his sport, he played a part in helping London win the bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games and carried the flame into the stadium during the 2012 opening ceremony. Redgrave’s Rio 2016 Olympic punditry showed the close links he maintained with many of the GB athletes and their sporting journeys. No doubt helped by the fact that his wife, Ann Redgrave, is the team doctor, and Jürgen Gröbler, his former coach, and David Tanner, his former performance director, were still central figures within the British setup at that time. Redgrave’s administrative nous was honed as Chairman of Henley Royal Regatta. He was elected Chairman in 2015. Under his leadership the regatta has made long overdue moves to modernise.
Whilst the Chinese were more than willing to snap up the rowing legend and take a punt on his seemingly unproven off-water skillsets, British Rowing seem less keen. Quite why, we do not know. We have asked British Rowing if they will talk to us about the Redgrave application and other matters. The initial response from them sounds promising – fingers crossed we will get to talk to them in the next few days.