The British team arrived home from Sydney on Tuesday basking in the glory of their country’s best performance at an Olympic Games for 80 years.
‘I’m just a very happy person to come away with the gold medal and to be part of this very successful team,’ heptathlon champion Denise Lewis told a press conference.
Asked to describe how she felt on the rostrum after collecting her medal, Lewis said: ‘I was proud, I felt an inner peace. I’ve achieved the highest accolade that someone can in their sport, so to say delight, to say pride, is just the tip of the iceburg.’
Britain won 11 gold, 10 silver and seven bronze medals in Sydney.
Rowing champion Steve Redgrave said his feelings on winning a record fifth gold in five Games were ‘something special’ but he refused to be drawn on whether he would try for a sixth gold in Athens in 2004.
‘I think it will be a tremendous Games but I don’t know if I will be there. I’m racing again in a couple of weeks. I’ll see how it goes and how I feel after that,’ he said.
Redgrave’s crew mate Matthew Pinsent stressed the importance of continued government funding to success in international sport.
‘Hopefully they won’t cut back on the funding. I think all successful sports deserve to have their funding increased,’ he said. ‘If the funding is cut, then we can kiss some of these medals goodbye.’
The athletes were keen to stress how important team spirit was to their success.
‘The team have been excellent. There’s been an outstanding atmosphere in the Olympic village and at the training camp in Brisbane beforehand,’ said Kelly Holmes, who won a bronze medal in the 800 metres.
Super-heavyweight boxing gold medallist Audley Harrison also emphasised the boost that the success achieved by team mates in other sports had given him. He would not discuss his plans for fighting professionally.
‘I’m not thinking about that right now. Now it’s about celebrating. I’m part of something special,’ he said.
Stephanie Cook, the doctor who won the gold in the inaugural women’s modern pentathlon on the last day of competition, said she was not going be rushed into making any decisions about her future.
‘Everything that’s happened over the last couple of days is just starting to sink in. Obviously I started in medicine that’s always been my career.
‘I don’t think what I’ve achieved here will change that, although I don’t think my life will ever be the same again.’