ON THE evening of Tuesday 27 September Sir Steve Redgrave, five times Olympic Gold Medallist and honorary graduate of the University of St Andrews, returned to hold an informal Q & A session with staff and students. The Bute Medical Building Lecture Theatre played host to an assorted crowd of staff, students and guests, all keen to hear from the champion rower.
The mastermind behind the event was Mr Bernie Li, a physiotherapist and the founder of START (St Andrews Rehabilitation Therapies). The aim of START is, along with providing physiotherapy for the university body, to ‘improve the performance of the focus sports’. In order to do this, Li is ‘trying to develop the discipline, motivation and commitment from the athletes’, and in Sir Redgrave were the ‘thoughts and traits of a proven winner’. In providing an example of athletic success, Li hoped ‘to inspire those present to implement [his sporting ethics] into their academic and sporting careers.’
The session started with a video which showed Sir Redgrave’s memorable final race in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, interspersed with clips of his family cheering him on and his dedication to training for the event. The image of a man dedicated to both family and sport was strongly impressed upon the audience, and a wave of applause greeted him as he sat before the podium, opposite Li, to answer the questions.
All questions had been selected before the event out of those that had been e-mailed in. They were all put to Sir Redgrave by Li, and the first asked for Sir Redgrave’s advice on how to plan for success in sport and work.
Drawing on his own experiences, having been noticed at an early age for his rowing potential, he laid out four key principles. Firstly, you must enjoy what you do. Citing his ‘50% rule’, he explained that, in his opinion, if you enjoy your work less than 50% of the time, then you should change occupation. Secondly, belief in self was crucial – ‘believe that success’, he said, ‘is not a question of “if”, but a matter of time’. Thirdly, he emphasised the crucial difference between talent and success: that talent can only get you so far, the successful individual puts in the hours training and studying. The final ingredient for success was planning and strategy, knowing exactly how you are going to climb the ladder to reach your goal.
The second question focussed on Sir Redgrave’s abilities on the rowing machine, the members of the rowing team present eager to see whether they could beat his personal best of 5:46minutes over 2km.
After a few other questions, Sir Redgrave was finally asked about his physical and mental preparation on the day of his Sydney final. The nerves he felt on the morning of the race ended for him as soon as he was in the boat, waiting for the start, with the knowledge that everything now rested upon the shoulders of the crew, and nerves would only spoil their chances. After a good start, Britain led after 250m, and from that point on, Sir Redgrave seemed to know that success was assured.
After the session, Li presented Sir Redgrave with a University quaiche, some whiskey to fill it, and a bright pink pre-sessional training t-shirt. He remained afterwards for 20minutes at a drinks reception to chat to students, imparting invaluable advice.
Charles Lister-James, Captain of the University boat club, said, “It was an inspiring moment to meet one of the greatest athletes of all time and be able to come away with an understanding of what one can accomplish if they put their minds to it.”