11:59AM, Thursday 28 January 2021
Double Olympic champion Helen Glover has returned to training with the Great British rowing team and hopes to compete for her country at this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo.
The 34-year-old mother-of-three said she was inspired to try and get back into the GB squad to prove to her daughter that ‘you can be and do what you want to do’.
She would be the first woman to be selected for a British Olympic rowing team after having children.
Glover won coxless pairs gold at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics alongside Heather Stanning but has taken time away from the sport over the past four years. In the meantime, she’s married the TV presenter, explorer and naturalist Steve Backshall and had three children, two-year-old Logan and one-year-old twins Bo and Kit.
A return to the Olympic team had looked very unlikely for Glover, but the postponement of the Tokyo Games from last summer because of the coronavirus pandemic, and time well spent in lockdown training on the rowing machine has reopened that window.
The announcement might have been made today (Thursday) but her decision to target a spot on the GB team has been many months in the making. She’s been training at her home near Maidenhead for the past seven months and has found that her scores were getting closer and closer to where they used to be. Since December she’s been training with the women’s sweep in Caversham, however, it’s not yet confirmed which boat she’ll aim for selection in for the Games. The squad is coached by James Harris who guided the women’s eight to their first ever Olympic medal at Rio 2016.
Speaking about her return to the sport, and desire to make the GB Olympic squad, Glover said: “It started as a desire to get my fitness back after having the twins, training during their nap time. When lockdown came it meant more hours on the rowing machine than I had anticipated.
“As my scores and times started getting better, I began to wonder if I could be the first woman in British Rowing history to make an Olympic team after having children. I’m finding the journey exciting and extremely challenging. Trying to be an elite sportswoman and the best mother I can be to young babies is certainly teaching me a lot.”
GB’s director of Performance Brendan Purcell said: “It’s fantastic to have Helen back training with the squad. She’s an incredible athlete and brings a huge amount to the team. At this stage, all options are open and there’s a lot left to be decided but Helen has already displayed her qualities as an elite level athlete by placing herself in contention for Tokyo.”
Glover first started rowing through the Sporting Giants talent identification scheme in 2008, under coach Paul Stannard. Three years later she was partnered with Heather Stanning and the pair began their historic unbeaten international streak in the women’s pair.
Stanning said: “It’s such great news to hear Helen is back in a boat and challenging for a place at the Tokyo Olympics. She’s an awesome athlete who clearly brings a huge amount of experience to any boat she rows in. I was lucky to have shared both my Olympic journeys with her and now can’t wait to be chief cheerleader at the next Games!”
Polly Swann, who made her own return to the GB Rowing Team in 2019 after completing her medical degree said she was inspired by Glover’s decision to fight for Olympic selection once again.
"Helen is an exceptional person and a phenomenal athlete,” she said. “To return to the team as a mum of three is an incredible achievement and it really inspires me. It’s a huge step in the right direction for women in sport. If we as a team can support her ambitions and learn from her it will hopefully pave the way for more women to follow in her footsteps - and who wouldn’t want a double Olympic champion in their team?”