Sir Steve Wins Another Henley Prize

Sir Steve - new man at the top.
Sir Steve – new man at the top.

Mike Sweeney - retiring.
Mike Sweeney – retiring.

Tim Koch writes:

If it was ever meant to be a secret, it was a badly kept one but yesterday, 9 December, a press release from Henley Royal Regatta announced that Sir Steve Redgrave will replace Mike Sweeney as its Chairman. Sir Steve’s appointment marks a distinct departure from the past as, while I stand to be corrected, I imagine that he will be the first Henley Chairman who did not attend a fee paying school and possibly the first who did not attend either Oxford or Cambridge University. However, what remains constant is that the Regatta has chosen someone who has clearly demonstrated their commitment to the sport of rowing in general and to Henley Royal Regatta in particular.

It is interesting for me to reflect on the three very different Henley Chairmen who have held office during the period of my involvement in rowing. There was the flamboyant Peter Coni, who ruled the Henley Reach from 1977 to 1993, the strict and efficient Mike Sweeney, who has been in charge for the last 22 years, and now the slightly unknown quantity of Sir Steve who has developed from the slightly chippy athlete of his youth to the relaxed and confident Grand Old Man (at the age of 52) of British Rowing. If or how Redgrave will change the Regatta remains to be seen.

The Henley Standard newspaper ran a nice summary of Mike Sweeney’s career in July 2012.

Following is the press release in its entirety:

Press Release: Sir Steve Redgrave elected the new Chairman of Henley Royal Regatta

Sir Steve Redgrave was elected Chairman of Henley Royal Regatta this evening [9 December 2014], following in the footsteps of Mike Sweeney who had been at the helm for 22 years.

“I feel very humbled and very honoured but also very excited and I hope I can do a job that is worthy”, said Sir Steve who described the Regatta as the “most successful international Regatta in the World”.

“Our Annual General Meeting is quite a traditional affair normally but today the mood was one of amazing warmth from the Stewards towards Mike. His face showed he was quite embarrassed but also quite humbled. It was a great moment”, he added of the popular out-going Chairman, Sweeney, who has retired.

Sir Matthew Pinsent was elected to take Sweeney’s place on the Management Committee. Sweeney became a Steward in 1974 and took over the Chairmanship in January 1993. As Vice-Chair, Sir Steve took the opportunity to shadow his predecessor throughout last year’s 175th anniversary Regatta.

Sir Steve was elected a Steward in 1996 and became a Member of the Committee in December 1999.

Sir Steve won gold medals at five consecutive Olympic Games from 1984 to 2000 as well as a bronze medal at the 1988 summer games, a grand total of six Olympic medals. He has also won three Commonwealth Games gold medals and nine World Championships gold medals. With five gold medals and one bronze, Steve is the most successful male rower in Olympic history, and his achievement of being the only Olympian* to have won gold medals at five different Olympic Games in an endurance sport has led to him being hailed as Britain’s greatest-ever Olympian.

Steve’s record at Henley Royal Regatta is also unsurpassed. He has won 22 Henley Medals**, including seven victories in The Silver Goblets and Nickalls’ Challenge Cup for Pairs.

HTBS editor comments:

*While it is correct that Sir Steve is the only Olympian who has taken five Olympic gold medals at five Games in a row, at six Olympic Games between 1984 and 2004, Romanian rower Elisabeta Lipa won five gold medals, two silver and one bronze.

**As a matter of fact, Sir Steve’s 22 Henley medals match Guy Nickalls’s (1866-1935), who also won 22 events at the Regatta.

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