Sir Steve Redgrave yesterday told Bermudians: don’t let diabetes stop you fulfilling your dreams.
The condition is a growing problem in Bermuda, with the Bermuda Diabetic Association estimating up to a quarter of the country’s population are afflicted as diets worsen, people’s lifestyles become less active and obesity becomes more widespread. Up to half, says the Association, could be unaware they are affected.
For five-time Olympic gold medallist Redgrave, 51, in Bermuda this week for golf’s Hackers’ Cup, the diagnosis was hereditary rather than poor living.
But the man many refer to as the greatest ever Olympian is proof the condition is not a barrier to reaching your goals.
Diagnosed three years before the Sydney 2000 Games, Redgrave — then 35 — adjusted his life and vowed to press on with his quest to win a remarkable fifth successive rowing gold.
He did just that in glorious fashion in Australia and, as he relaxed in the Gold Lounge at the Southampton Fairmont yesterday, he spoke to the Bermuda Sun about the moment he thought his illustrious career was about to end and urged those afflicted with the condition not to let it stop you achieving your ambitions.
He said: “It was a shock and I thought my sporting career was over. I didn’t know much about the condition but I knew enough about it to think you couldn’t be a top athlete with it.
“Fortunately where I live in Marlow there is a diabetic centre and the consultant there was relatively young and very forward-thinking and his attitude was ‘we can’t solve it but we can come up with a solution’.
“I was with him for about three hours and he was teaching me to take insulin and all the other aspects that come with it and then just before kicking me out of the room he said ‘I can’t see any reason why you can’t realize your dreams in three years in Sydney’.
“That made me think ‘if he thinks I can do it, I’ll give it my best shot’, where I was expecting him to tell me ‘this is it, you can’t do it’.
“He was so positive about it and relatively laid back, so I came up with the theory that diabetes has to live with me and not me live with the condition and that’s how I’ve treated my life since then.
“It’s something you have to be aware of and on top of all the time but it’s not going to hamper me doing the things I want to do.”
Redgrave said he later found out that many other specialists would have told him to quit.
Former Tottenham Hotspur footballer Gary Mabbutt was the only sportsman he knew with the condition when he was diagnosed but he said: “Now there are a lot of diabetic sports people about.
“It is a very tough condition to deal with but you don’t have to be wrapped up in cotton wool and let it hamper your life. You just have to be aware of it and be on top of it.” n