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Steve's master stroke.

On Sunday, BBC's Sports Review of the Year will reveal who the country believes is the supreme sporting figure of 1996.

There are six outstanding contenders: world motor racing champion Damon Hill, Olympic rowing gold medallist Steve Redgrave, jockey Frankie Dettori, Alan Shearer of Newcastle, swim star Michelle Smith and golfer Nick Faldo.

But for me there is only one winner. There shouldn't even be an argument.

The nation's hero and number one sportsman should be Redgrave.

What he has achieved by brute strength, dedication and sheer ability sets him head and shoulders above any other contender.

He and partner Matthew Pinsent are proud, unforgiving men. And they only got one chance to get it right in the final in Atlanta. Redgrave is my choice by the length of a coxless pair.

Not Hill, because he triumphed with the best car in Formula One.

And he has already previously taken the award for finishing second in the drivers' championship.

Dettori, with all his brilliant horsemanship, won seven races in a row at Ascot. But he wouldn't have done so if they had not been top-class mounts.

A terrific performance, but lacking the sheer enormity of Redgrave's.

And what of Shearer? Five goals in the European Championship helped England reach the semi-finals and restored pride in the English game.

But neither he nor England won anything.

Smith? She smashed the Americans to smithereens in the Olympic pool with three gold medals.

She was magnificent in the water, and out of it too.

She deserves her place in the Olympic record books, even though I believe her physical contribution was less than that needed by Redgrave.

Faldo produced the win of the season when he took the Masters crown with a final round that was all about wonderful shot-making.

But hitting a golf ball when you are already a multi-millionaire doesn't really demand the kind of back-breaking work that Redgrave put in.

He is a true Olympian because he didn't do it for the money.

And therefore he should receive the grateful thanks of a viewing public who, I hope, give him the award he so richly deserves.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Clarke, Nigel
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 13, 1996
Words:356
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