Not bad for someone who left Great Marlow School, Buckinghamshire, at 16 with only a single qualification - in woodwork.
Luckily, Steve and rowing discovered each other.
Tall, immensely strong and with astonishing stamina and determination, he was a gifted natural rower. But it was never easy.
Despite suffering from diabetes, he trained hard twice a day, seven days a week, 49 weeks of the year, making it difficult to find time to devote to his wife Ann and their children Natalie, ten, Sophie, seven, and Zak, three.
Even his honeymoon in 1988 had to be fitted around training sessions.
The punishing programme took its toll.
After winning his fourth gold in Atlanta, Steve said: "Anyone who sees me anywhere near a boat ever again has my permission to shoot me."
Three months later he was back behind the oars. But the sacrifice and hard work paid off. Steve returned from Sydney last summer as a national hero.
Twenty-five thousand people lined the streets of his home town to cheer him as he brandished his fifth Olympic gold, won alongside teammates Matthew Pinsent, James Cracknell and Tim Foster in the coxless fours.
Steve, 38, knighted last year for his sporting feats, has announced his retirement from international competitive rowing.
But he has no intention of slipping quietly into the background.
He has launched a charitable trust pledged to raise £5 million for good causes over the next five years.
He is currently in training to run in this year's London Marathon - with Ann competing against him.
Ann, showing the competitive spirit that seems to run deep in the Redgrave clan, says: "I'm determined to beat him."