Tom Degun: Sir Steve Redgrave may find it increasingly difficult to pass the spotlight to the next generation
Wednesday, 06 June 2012
In fairness, it turned out to be a press event of Royal proportions as Britain took the opportunity to name their rowing team for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Let us not forget that rowing has long been one of Britain's premier Olympic sports.
Team GB has won 54 Olympic medals in rowing, 24 of them gold, making them the third most successful country in Olympic rowing history.
It is also a sport in which Britain topped the medal table at the Beijing 2008 Olympics with six medals, including two gold, and one that has produced our greatest ever Olympian, Sir Steve Redgrave, the man who almost impossibly won five Olympic gold medals in five consecutive Olympic Games.
Sir Steve (statue in Marlow pictured above) himself, now the President of British Rowing, was situated rather inconspicuously at the back of the press conference, seemingly very happy to let the next generation have the spotlight that once followed him relentlessly.
It was with a smile that he watched the 48 rowers named for London 2012 interviewed by the swarms of media in attendance with just 50 days left to go until the Olympics.
In the lobby of the hotel, he greeted me with a warm handshake, recognising me from the countless times I have interviewed him over the past few months.
It was not long before he was spotted by the rest of the media and surrounded for interviews, but I still managed to get a quick word with him before the others collared him.
"This is the strongest and most prepared rowing team we have ever sent to the Olympic Games," he told me, again looking to focus on others rather than himself.
"I think that this crop can be one of the best we have ever produced and really make some headlines this summer."
But despite Sir Steve's attempts to deflect the attention away from himself, he remains one of the greatest-ever Olympians to have been to the Games and I had to turn the conversation to him.
"Of course, I'd love to still be competing and I would have loved the chance to have been named here in this team for London 2012 but I'm 50 now so I obviously don't have that option," he said.
"But I'm not going to complain about any of it.
"I'm President of British Rowing and I'm involved in the BBC coverage of rowing at London 2012 so I'm really looking forward to having that role this time round."
But what about that other major role we all think Redgrave might take at London 2012; the one of lighting the Olympic Flame at the London 2012 Opening Ceremony on July 27.
He told me earlier this year that he is only scheduled to carry the Olympic Torch on July 10 – 17 days before the Opening Ceremony in an interview that made the bookmakers slightly lengthen his odds.
However, he still remains the favourite at 1/2 on and probably the most deserving contender.
"I still haven't heard anything new on that front," he said.
"I'm carrying the Torch in Henley on July 10 and I still don't know what I'm doing that day.
"I know it is about 8am and rumour has it that I'm rowing across the two finishing lines from the London 1908 Olympics and London 1948 Olympics.
"But still nothing on the Ceremony.
"I'd obviously love it but I don't think I'll get the call for it.
"I still think a relatively unknown athlete will be given that role."
As my colleague Alan Hubbard wrote on this website not long ago, the London 2012 Olympic Cauldron lighter is likely to be young, black and probably female to fit in with the Organising Committee's avowed commitment to youth, equality and cultural diversity.
Sir Steve clearly agrees, and they may well both be right.
But as celebrate 50 days away from the greatest show on earth, speculation will continue to grow and I get the feeling that our greatest ever Olympian may find it increasingly difficult to pass the spotlight, or indeed the Olympic Flame, onto the next generation.
Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames. To follow him on Twitter click here.