Helen Glover, double Olympic champion and mother of three, on trying for Tokyo 2020

It was in 2016 that Glover last rowed competitively as she and Heather Stanning successfully

It was in 2016 that Glover last rowed competitively as she and Heather Stanning successfully defended their coxless pairs Olympic title in Rio. They will forever be the golden rowing double act: Team GB’s first home champions at London 2012, owners of an unparalleled five-year, 39-race unbeaten streak too.

Glover never formally announced her retirement but she did not ever plan on coming back, especially after starting a family with Backshall, whom she married in 2016. 

That was, however, until last summer. Simply keen to regain her fitness and energy following the arrival of the twins in January, Glover had already returned to the rowing machine for the first time in four years. At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic narrowed down life’s activities, restricting travel options, but also delaying the Olympics by 12 months. 

And so, with her performance numbers starting to improve, the “cogs started to turn” for a remarkable comeback. “It was the combination of starting to feel fitter and added time with the Olympics postponement and it made me think: is it ridiculous to think that I could do it in about a year, with just having children?” she says. 

“Maybe before I had children I would see that the toughest obstacle was being pregnant and physical changes but actually it’s just the day-to-day of working out how they are never affected negatively by this. All the while trying to be the best athlete I can be.”

Glover may still be shorn of a wider family and friends network due to ongoing lockdown restrictions but in Backshall, she has her rock-solid pillar of support – even if news of her Olympic return, delivered casually while feeding both the twins, did take him by surprise.

The well-known television personality, who was caught lovingly ‘blubbering’ on screen when his wife won in Rio, whisks the children out for a walk each morning to allow Glover to fit in the first of three daily training sessions. The second session, and main one of the day, is fitted around the babies’ nap time, with the third dependent on family life and if necessary, often incorporating the children. It sounds exhausting just thinking about it, but Glover is so far managing the challenge  – with some added mother’s perspective.

“Whereas before I wouldn’t even dream of dropping a session, now it’s something I accept, maybe there will be a chance to make it up in another part of the week. But if there isn’t, that’s time I’ve spent with my children.”

Make no mistake, chasing another Olympics is something Glover fully intends to tackle with all her might. This is, after all, the individual who won the 125 mile Devizes to Westminster ultra-endurance kayak race in 2017. And then six days later ran her first marathon in three hours five minutes. But now family comes above everything.

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