Legends Of The Olympic Games - 1984 To 2016
Here is AFP Sport's fourth set of five legends of the Games: - Steve Redgrave: awesome oarsman - The message could not have been any clearer when, at Lake Lanier outside Atlanta in 1996, Britain's Redgrave declared: "Anybody who sees me go near a boat has my permission to shoot me." Redgrave had, at the age of 34, just won rowing gold for the fourth consecutive Games and announced his retirement in unequivocal fashion.
Yet at Sydney 2000 -- after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and suffering for eight years with debilitating ulcerative colitis -- Redgrave put his 38-year-old body through a punishing training regime one last time and achieved another Olympic triumph, as a member of the coxless fours.
In doing so Redgrave became the only endurance sport athlete to win five golds in five consecutive Games: 1984 (coxed fours), 1988, 1992, 1996 (coxless pairs) and 2000 (coxless fours).
His secret? "I decided that diabetes had to live with me, not me live with it," he said. The American dominated the 200m and 400m sprints in the final decade of the 20th century, winning four gold medals, and he was unlucky not to have won more.
He failed to make the 200m line-up for the 2000 Games after pulling up with a muscle strain in the US Olympic trials, but was part of the 4x400m US team that won in Sydney, only to be disqualified eight years later after teammate Antonio Pettigrew admitted doping.
Vehemently opposed to doping, Johnson immediately returned his medal to the IOC, saying he had won it "unfairly".
That record stood for 12 years until Usain Bolt ran 19.30 in Beijing. Only Bolt and Yohan Blake have ever run faster in the 25 years since Johnson set his mark.
The swimmer's five gold medals make "Thorpedo" the most decorated Australian Olympian.
It proved Thorpe's greatest victory. Van den Hoogenband turned more than a second ahead of world record pace at halfway, but Thorpe chased the Dutchman down in the final 50 metres to take gold in an Olympic record 1min 44.71sec, with Phelps third.
An emotional Thorpe celebrated by tearing off his cap, punching the air wildly and screaming at the top of his lungs.
A hyperactive Phelps was encouraged into swimming aged seven to give his boundless energy an outlet.
By the time he had swum his last race in Rio five years ago the American had become the most decorated Olympian of all time with 23 gold medals, three silver and two bronze -- 13 of the golds in individual events, another record.
Motivated by Ian Thorpe's comment that beating Spitz's record was "impossible", which he kept pinned on his locker, Phelps stormed to an incredible eight golds at Beijing 2008.
"Never in my life have I been so happy to have been proved wrong," said Thorpe, after being poolside to witness Phelps's eighth Beijing win in the 4x100m medley relay.
At London 2012 Phelps expanded his collection to 18 golds, two silvers and two bronzes before retiring, saying: "I'm done. No more".
But in 2014 he came out of retirement and at 31 -- well beyond the usual peak age for swimmers -- extended his incredible run with five more golds and a silver in Rio.
He anchored Jamaica's 4x100m sprint relay team to cross the line first in all three Games, though in 2017 the quartet were stripped of the 2008 gold because teammate Nesta Carter was found guilty of doping.