Today and tomorrow’s profiles will be looking at the two women who won Britain’s first golds of the Olympics; the rowers Helen Glover and Heather Stanning. We’ll start today with Helen Glover.
Five years ago Helen Glover had never rowed in her life. A student of sport and exercise science at Cardiff Metropolitan University, her goal in life was to qualify with a PGCE and start work as a primary school teacher – an ambition which, true to form, she achieved. The main sports for the daughter of the former Cornwall rugby captain Jimmy Glover were cross-country running, tennis, swimming and hockey (she was part of the England satellite squad).
But during her first year of teaching in Bath, the now 26-year-old discovered a new passion. She started rowing through the government- and National Lottery-funded scheme Sporting Giants and went on to get a place on the Team GB Start programme. The coach who spotted her, Paul Stannard, was the same coach who had recognised her fellow rower Heather Stanning’s potential three years earlier.
The Truro-born, Penzance-raised Glover already has a cluster of medals in her back pocket, having – along with Stanning – struck gold at this year’s World Cup Series, taken silver at last year’s world rowing championships in Bled, Slovenia, and won the overall World Rowing Cup Series. The pair made their breakthrough on the world stage in 2010, when at the world rowing championships on New Zealand’s Lake Karapiro, they clung on to the coat-tails of the host nation, then the world champions, to clinch silver.
In an interview with her local paper, the Cornishman, before she left for the 2012 Games, Glover said meeting Sir Steve Redgrave had been a key inspiration in her transformation from late starter to champion. “It makes you realise what’s possible. A couple of years ago people thought: ‘What can she really do when it’s only two years to the Olympics?’ Then you think how he broke through those barriers and his health problems and his age, and you think: ‘If that’s possible, then it’s possible for me to break through and be part of the team.’”
Not only did Helen make the team, but she went on to take the gold with her team mate.