Degree Speeches
Sum mer 2001

Sir Steven Redgrave, CBE and Lady Ann Redgrave

Public Orator, Professor Stuart Biddle, presented the Honorary Graduands at the Degree Congregation held on the morning of Monday 16 July 2001


Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Lord Lieutenant, Graduants, Ladies and Gentlemen

Elite sport performance requires ‘togetherness’ – cohesion. We have always known this, but until quite recently this was only thought of in terms of the players themselves - playing together, having team spirit and so on. In modern-day sport, the teams are larger and more complex. At the highest level, we have players, coaches, fitness advisers, sport psychologists, nutrition experts, sports medics, and others. The creation of effective teams and team spirit has never been more important. Perhaps it is not just cohesion that we need – a rather dry term denoting the forces keeping people together – but synergy. Synergy has been described as additional energy and creative ability that maximises individuals’ ability to work together. I would like to think that we have a fine example of sports synergy before us today.

Dr Ann Redgrave is well known to us as the team doctor for the highly successful British rowing teams in the Sydney Olympic Games. However, her career in medicine and sports medicine started with appropriate hands-on experience – that of being a highly successful rower in her own right. In 1984 she represented Great Britain in the women’s eight at the Los Angeles Olympics. Two years later, she collected bronze and silver medals at the Commonwealth Games. Originally trained as an orthopaedic surgeon, Ann Redgrave qualified as doctor in 1984 – the year she rowed in the Olympics - and as an osteopath in 1990. Her interests in sports medicine led to her becoming the British women’s rowing doctor in 1990 and, two years later, overall team doctor for British rowing. She has headed the sports medicine team for rowing at the last two Olympic Games.

Sir Steven Redgrave is truly a unique Olympian. IOC President, Juan Antonio Samaranch, said that Sir Steven had achieved “the highest rank of Olympic participants”. For the record, it was September 23rd, 2000, that marks one of the greatest days in the history of British and Olympic sport. Sir Steven, rowing in the coxless four, secured his fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal, following those in Los Angeles in the coxed four, and Seoul, Barcelona and Atlanta in the coxless pairs. I am sure many of you will recall these triumphs, although the majority of today’s graduants may be a little hazy about the first of these gold medals – most were less than 5 years old at the time! One must also not forget that in addition to Olympic glory, Sir Steven won nine World Championships between 1986 and 1999 and secured Commonwealth Games gold medals in three events in 1986. And you will be forgiven for not knowing that he was a member of the British Bobsleigh team!

These achievements are remarkable enough in their own right. Rowing is one of the most demanding of sports, mentally and physically. However, Sir Steven nearly missed the Atlanta Olympics due to serious illness, and in 1997 was diagnosed with diabetes, requiring several injections each day. To achieve such unprecedented sporting success, in such a demanding sport, and under such circumstances, is, simply, incredible.

Loughborough University has an unrivalled reputation in sport. It, too, has been associated with -one might say produced - Olympic gold medallists and world record holders and world leaders in performance, coaching, and managerial leadership in sport. We believe in sport in the fullest sense, hence our moto for Loughborough Sport -Developing People, Developing Sport. Today, we are honouring two outstanding people in the field of sport who have developed themselves -in synergy -and developed British sport to truly great heights. They represent the best in achievement.

Mr Chancellor, for her work in sport and sports medicine, I have the honour to present to you, and to the whole University, DR ANN REDGRAVE for the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa.

Mr Chancellor, for his unique achievement in Olympic sport, and for his contributions to British rowing and sport in general, I have the honour to present to you, and to the whole University, SIR STEVEN REDGRAVE, CBE, for the degree of Doctor of Technology honoris causa.


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  H.D.McCullam@lboro.ac.uk, January 2002

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