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Redgrave backs Bann trio for Olympic glory

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Sir Steve Redgrave talks to the assembled guests during the event at Queen's

Sir Steve Redgrave talks to the assembled guests during the event at Queen's

Sir Steve Redgrave talks to the assembled guests during the event at Queen's

Sir Steve Redgrave laughed at the idea. It related to my thoughts on the best way to honour our rowers if they come home from London in the summer with Olympic gold.

Dame Mary Peters had a running track named after her following her brilliant victory in 1972, so the boys should really get rivers named after them here if they strike gold,” was the suggestion, warmly received and given the thumbs-up by the greatest Olympian of them all.

And you know what? According to the man himself, in Belfast yesterday to launch an indoor rowing initiative, it might just happen because he is confident that Coleraine trio Alan Campbell, Richard and Peter Chambers can all claim podium places for Team GB at the Games, with gold medals a distinct possibility.

Campbell will row on his own in the single sculls while the Chambers brothers are expected to compete together in the lightweight fours.

Redgrave, who won FIVE gold medals from 1984 to 2000, is an admirer of all three Ulstermen.

“Alan has impressed me so much over the last six or seven years,” said Sir Steve.

“Coming over from Northern Ireland it wasn't necessarily the easiest platform to get into the British team but he decided that he wanted to be an Olympic champion and set himself the target to do it in the single sculls, which showed great determination.

“In the Beijing Games four years ago when he had illness and missed a lot of training beforehand I thought for him to get into the final and finish fifth was amazing. He really went up in my estimation after that. To medal in every World Championships since then has put him in good stead for winning a medal at the Olympics.

“I wouldn't class Alan as favourite to get gold, but he has beaten his main competitors at international regattas and he could do it again at the Olympics.”

On the gifted Chambers brothers, Redgrave said: “Their chance of winning gold medals

are stronger than Alan's, even though the lightweight fours is a very competitive event.

“Richard is an excellent competitor and is a gold medallist from the World Championships two years ago and four years ago. Actually losing the World Championship last year might help by the time the Olympics come around as it will provide Richard and the team with a little bit of extra hunger.

“With Peter coming to the fore I think they will have a very strong boat. He was at the World Cup event last year and won which gives you an indication of his strength and ability.

“It would be a great story if the two brothers could win gold. They have a real chance. I'm confident all three Northern Ireland rowers can win medals in London.”

Redgrave is a colussus of a man. Those five Olympic triumphs in Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 (pictured) are etched in our minds forever.

For years I've wanted to ask him which was his favourite.

This was his answer: “That's a bit like asking me, a father of three, which of my children is my favourite? Politically you are supposed to say they are all the same. The reality is that they behave differently at different times.

“They have their own personality and at different times you have different favourites. In terms of the five gold medals, each one has its own character.

“They are all special in their own right but if you really twisted my arm to pick one you have this dream to become an Olympic champion and in Los Angeles that dream became a reality.

“All the others were special but I knew that I'd done it before and knew that I could do it again. In 1984 I hadn't done it and didn't know that I could do it so to win then was the most amazing feeling.”

Yesterday, Sir Steve was handing out tips to youngsters on rowing machines inside the Queen's Sport complex as he launched a scheme which will bring 55 indoor rowing machines and a grant of £100,000 to Belfast courtesy of the Steve Redgrave Fund, in conjunction with Sport Relief.

The scheme delivered by Queen's University in partnership with Belfast City Council and the Belfast Education and Library Board aims to develop a community indoor rowing programme that will improve the health, fitness and well being of young people.

The Belfast programme will be delivered in four local schools, four community centres and at Queen's Physical Education Centre.

Belfast Telegraph