Redgrave’s American Nightmare

Redgrave will not be the head of high performance at USRowing.

2 minute read
Words Tom Ransley
Photography Benedict Tufnell
Published 13.12.21

Sir Steve Redgrave is no longer in the running to be the new performance director at USRowing. USRowing’s chief executive officer Amanda Kraus confirms Redgrave has not made the final cut from those hoping to land the high performance role.

On Wednesday 8th December 2021 Kraus published a letter stating that Steve Redgrave is no longer being considered for the head of high performance. “For those who are curious… Steve Redgrave is not a finalist for the role. That said, we’re very grateful for the time he took to explore a position here in the United States.” Kraus explains that the search is “coming to a close” and USRowing plan to announce the successful candidate at the end of the year. 

Photo China’s performance director Steve Regrave
Credit Benedict Tufnell

The news comes as British Rowing select Louise Kingsley as their new Director of Performance. Redgrave was one of twelve candidates interviewed for the role at British Rowing. 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. Ultimately Redgrave was signed by China and led their team to a commendable one gold and two bronzes at Tokyo 2020.

Photo Garry Herbert BBC commentator and Olympic gold medal winning cox vents to his Twitter followers.

In October 2021, stateside excitement grew when Olympian cox Katelin Guregian posted – perhaps prematurely – a picture of her and Redgrave and told her Instagram followers, “…this Olympic legend is coming to @usrowing as HPD for Paris…” Later, Kraus 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”.

Photo Katelin Guregian tells her Instagram followers Steve Redgrave is headed to USRowing.

Redgrave brings considerable clout to an organisation’s marketeers. An ambassador for his sport, Redgrave helped London secure the 2012 Olympic Games and carried the flame into the stadium during the opening ceremony. Redgrave’s Rio 2016 Olympic punditry showed the close links he maintained with many of the GB athletes. 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. Elected Chairman in 2015 the regatta has made long overdue moves to modernise under his leadership.

Photo Redgrave greeting GBR athlete Will Satch.

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.”

Photo Steve and Ann Redgrave greeting Paul Thompson at Henley Royal Regatta.
Credit Ben Tufnell

The five-time Olympic champion made his golden Olympic debut at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. 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 appealed to Redgrave too.

Whilst the Chinese were more than willing to snap up the rowing legend in 2018, their European and North American counterparts seem less keen to do so now; Redgrave’s attempts to move are proving problematic. His American dream is over.

The USRowing’s search committee tasked with finding the next Chief High Performance Director:

Video An interview in 2014 with Steve Redgrave – speculating on the future of the GB Rowing Team.