Sir Steve Redgrave names swimmer as his Olympic inspiration during school visit - and reveals new boat challenge
Most of his audience were not even born when Sir Steve Redgrave was crowned the greatest Olympian of all time after winning his fifth gold medal in five consecutive Olympic Games.
But his achievements were not lost on the pupils of Streetly Academy in Walsall who listened with rapt attention to the great man's story.
His visit was in recognition of the school's sporting prowess. Last year it won the prestigious UK Sports College of the Year Award for innovation and achievement from the Youth Sport Trust national body.
Speaking at assembly yesterday, Sir Steve told youngsters how he had been inspired by American swimmer Mark Spitz who became the first man to win seven gold medals at the same Olympics in the 1972 Games in Munich.
"I was 10 at the time and it made a tremendous impression on me," he said. "I was inspired. I thought: 'Wouldn't it be great to win one'."
He answered questions from pupils about his training and motivation before being interviewed by the school's media team and joining youngsters for a game of ultimate frisbee in the sports hall.
The former rower, who is dyslexic, described his younger self as 'not the brightest tool in the box academically' and said sports training taught him discipline.
"After an hour or so on the water after school I would come home and do my homework. Without sport, it could have gone either way for me," he said.
But he added: "You have to enjoy it. People talk of the sacrifices but if I had my time all over again, I'd do it all again for half as good results.
"You are privileged and, yes it's a lot of effort, but there's a lot of fun and enjoyment and camaraderie as well."
Sir Steve, now 52, has been part of the Sporting Promise project, which aims to ensure that children across the country have access to sports activity in school, for three years.
He said he would have liked to have gone into coaching but that it would have taken too much time.
"If I can't take part in sport myself, going round to schools and inspiring others to take it up is the next best thing.
"The success of the project for me is about people enjoying sport. It would be good to inspire another Olympic champion butt hey would probably have made it anyway. It's really about making an impact at a lower level."
The father of three revealed he has taken up another sporting challenge to get back in a boat again this autumn. "It's in a big boat - there will be eight of us - but I've already got blisters," he said.
The school is proud of its own sporting credentials with many of its pupils playing at the top level. And in 2010 it brought 600 pupils and 61 staff - the largest school party in the country - to the Olympic Park to watch the Paralympics.
Headteacher Billy Downie said he believed sport helped youngsters achieve academically. Last year the school became the first in the UK under the new Ofsted framework to move from a 'need to improve' rating to 'outstanding' in a single three-year cycle."
The school was praised by 400metre Olympian Daniel Caines, from Solihull, who was also a visitor.
He said: "My mum used to threaten me that if I didn't get on with my school work, I'd end up at Streetly Comp as it was then. That was the reputation it had. It's a very different school now."
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