More of a legend than a man, at least that is the way Steven Redgrave has long been portrayed in the media. At last, the long-awaited autobiography gives us mere mortals an insight into what makes the world's greatest ever oarsman tick.
Perhaps unsurprisingly and not unlike its subject, the book is almost entirely focussed on rowing. For me, as a rowing fan, that did not prove a problem, but for those with less interest in the nuts and bolts of the sport, A Golden Age may prove to require more dedication than an hour on a rowing machine. I, for one, was fascinated to read of Redgrave's rapid ascent from paddling on the river with friends in order to skive school to going on to become the leading oarsman in this country and then the world.
The small insights we are given into Redgrave's private life show that achieving his sporting status has required more sacrifices than most of us would make in a lifetime. Perhaps that is understating it. The book deals in depth with all the problems that we have heard about in the press such as Redgrave's battles with Colitis and, more recently, Diabetes. It is an unbelievable testament to the man's courage and force of will that he insisted on carrying on even when, as a result of his illnesses, he was training harder and, in terms of assessments, achieving less.
It also gives an interesting perspective of the personality of the man. The lasting impression I have taken from the book is that it should be his put-upon wife, Ann, who should receive something by way of the honours list this year. Fingers' crossed!
Definitely worth a read although don't be expecting any major revelations. There is touching intimacy in parts although for the most part, Redgrave concentrates on listing events that happened rather than how he felt about them. Perhaps, the typical lack of gushing emotion (he acknowledges that he does feel great emotion at times but he may be better than the rest of us at controlling it) is necessary to maintain his aura of invincibility.
I am quietly confident that, before too very long, there will be an updated version of the autobiography with a chapter on Sydney 2000. I couldn't wait to read the book to learn a bit more about one of my idols. I was not disappointed and so am sure that I will be buying version II as well! If you have any interest in rowing or if the Sydney Olympics have sparked an interest in how all of these amateur athletes dedicate their lives to their sports, this book is for you.