The message couldn't have been any clearer when, at Lake Lanier outside Atlanta in 1996, Britain's Redgrave declared: "Anybody who sees me in a boat has my permission to shoot me."
Redgrave had, at the age of 34, just won rowing gold for the fourth Games in a row and on live TV, he announced his retirement in unequivocal fashion.
Yet four years later - after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 1997, and suffering with debilitating ulcerative colitis since before the 1992 Barcelona Games - he put his ailing, 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.