Now it may seem to some that winning a team gold would be more difficult than an individual one. They would be right in my estimation, for winning team gold requires the collective effort and performance from the team as a whole, rather than the individual. That doesn't take anything away from any individual though, it's mainly an observation and opinion.

The latest in a long line of 'golden' moments... Steve's recent Merida medal.The latest in a long line of 'golden' moments... Steve's recent Merida medal.Some, if not many, recognise that Steve is one of the finest anglers never to win an individual gold. I for one, subscribe to that opinion wholeheartedly. But Steve's focus has, and remains, firmly on team success. It's a quality recognised by the England management, the England members themselves and probably the rest of the world's competing anglers. It's a heavy mantle to carry, and Steve's carries it unbelieveably well. I've known Steve for many years, initially from afar, but since the mid-90's I've got to know him much better.

My first recollection started around that time when I was fishing a late autumn match on Gold Valley's Syndicate Lake and Steve was a few pegs to my right. I had decided to fish for the skimmers with chopped worm and soil. I was pulling them out on a regular basis and this attracted the attention of Steve. I kept hearing this voice come over the bank after each fish was netted... “what's that Dave, another skimmer”... what did you get that on?”... “what are you feeding?” This went on for a while until the final whistle when Steve eventually came up to me to 'quizz' me about my approach. I can't remember how I did in the match overall, but I remember beating Steve by some margin... but that was the last time ever!

The point that struck me afterwards was that here was a guy who had everything... a great team, an international career, fantastic sponsorship. Yet, he was talking to me, one-on-one, about how I had managed to beat him. He wasn't 'pi**ed-off' about it, or aloof, he was genuinely interested... so that he could make sure it wouldn't happen again!!! Steve loves to win and will gather information like a 'hoover' and store it for future use. He capacity and appetite for knowledge never ceases to amaze me, despite his age. It's an abject lesson for those few misguided souls' who supposedly think he's getting past it!

Those people who do who feel Steve's age may be against him – he is after the 'wrong-side' of 50 – simply don't have any idea about the man! Those who know and fish against him locally each week will tell you the real story. He's fiercely competitive and doesn't miss a trick. He loves fishing for 'proper' fish (not necessarily carp) but when team fishing will sacrifice his personal advancement team glory. He's been the leading figure in Diawa Dorking, for several decades. It's perhaps one of England's greatest match squad's and turns out numerous internationals on a regular basis. Not only has Steve influenced countless anglers within that team, but those outside it in England and the world in general. If there is anyone who thinks HE's replaceable, then they are sorely mistaken. Whenever Steve decides to close the book on his international career, England and the world will be the poorer for it.

What's it like to win a few gold's then?
Let me try to put into perspective just how difficult it is to reach ten team gold's. First, any angler must maintain a consistency of ability and form over a period of years to retain inclusion in any squad. Secondly, this factor generally means that any angler will, by its very nature, have a limited life span within the team. Thirdly, the angler needs to 'gel' and work within the team framework as new, or old personnel arrive and leave. This also includes changes of management as they are sometimes prone to selecting their own particular favourites! And finally, any angler has to personally maintain his own mental ability and enthusiasm over a period of years, in order for it to be seen that he is a willing and able participant within the squad.

There may be many who fit this profile, but precious few who have actually maintained it over time and space... Steve Gardener is most certainly one of them, perhaps the only one, as he's been doing it over a 23 year period*, encompassing 24 World Championships. Perhaps a world record in itself... does anyone out there know better?
*there has also been many European Championship appearances within this timeframe.

I've just visited Steve at his home in Surrey, some two weeks after his return from Spain, to find out a little more about this modest and iconic angler. I had a long video session with him which I have broken down into,'bite-size' portions... I hope you enjoy them.