Helen Glover: Double Olympic champion returns with silver at European Rowing Championships

Helen Glover marked her return to rowing with European silver as part of the British women's four.

The double Olympic champion combined with Rebecca Shorten, Heidi Long and Rowan McKellar to reach the podium at Lake Bled in Slovenia.

The British crew dominated the race, hitting the front at the 250m mark before being overhauled by Romania in the closing stages.

Glover added a fifth European medal to her collection having grabbed golds in the pair in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2021.

Glover said: "It’s a quick learning curve, I learned a lot from the heat. The final was such a fast race and the thinking time you have in the pair, it’s not there in the four. I love that and there’s a lot more to come.”

Eldest son Logan and twins Kit and Willow watched their mum race internationally together for the first time on the banks of the stunning Lake Bled.

“I’ve had four good night’s sleep which is amazing, it feels like a spa trip!” joked Glover. “I’m the only one coming out of this feeling fresher than I started.”

It was Britain's first medal of the European Championships and was followed by gold medals in the men's eight and the lightweight women's double.

Glover and Great Britain get their first chances to qualify boats for the Games at September's World Championships in Belgrade.

The full story

Aged 36 with three children, one of Britain's greatest-ever rowers is back racing internationally with eyes on a fourth Olympics in Paris.

Having won two Olympic gold medals at London 2012 and Rio 2016, Glover made more history in Tokyo as she became the first mother to compete for Team GB in rowing.

“Lots of different factors brought me back, one of them being that I still have the physical capability,” the Cornwall native said.

“At some point, my body will no longer be able to do this, that point isn't now.

“And I think if I can physically do it, and I have the motivation and the drive to do it, and I still enjoy it and it fits in with the family life then I really should do it.

“The women I'm training with are a really exciting group of people, I feel supported by them, I feel empowered by them, I want to make the team stronger for having me on it.

“Working with Andrew [Randell], who's our new head coach, has been really exciting because I'm working with someone who’s got children, he gets it.

“He knows that when I'm happiest as a mum, I'm going to get the best results out of myself as a rower, and he knows that when I'm rowing well, I usually go home and enjoy family life and can be the best mum I can be.”

When training for London and Rio, the result was all that mattered but for Tokyo and now Paris, Glover is proud to be part of a team who understand how her motivation has changed.

Back at London 2012, Glover and Stanning’s triumph saw them become the first British women to win Olympic gold in rowing and Team GB’s first gold medallists at the London Olympics.

Records continued to be broken as she partnered Polly Swann at the 2014 European Championships to become the first woman to hold the Olympic, World and European titles in coxless pairs.

After she and Stanning conquered the world again in Rio, Glover retired to start a family – her first son Logan was born in July 2018 with twins Kit and Willow following in January 2020.

Glover returned to competitive rowing in April 2021 and three months later finished fourth at the Olympics, a win in her book with a place in the start line all she had aimed for alongside Swann.

Last year, she earned a world silver medal on debut in the Beach Sprint event of the World Rowing Coastal Championships, and credited keeping her hand, or oar, in the sport with easing her return to Olympic rowing.

She added: “Of course I had concerns about going up against younger athletes. I think as a society, we are led to believe that you peak in your 20s and there's no question about it.

“And there are so many amazingly talented rowers coming through, but that's why I came back. I want to come back into a leading squad, into a squad that's going to challenge me.

“But then I also want to prove a point that you can still continue to improve and I've set myself a challenge of being better than I ever have been and I do think that's feasible.

“I think it's possible that I could be in Paris at the age of 38 and be better than I ever have been and that's what I want to work with the team to become.”

Glover has taken inspiration from former teammate Katherine Grainger, who won silver at Rio 2016 aged 41, to ensure she won a medal in each of her five Olympic appearances.

Glover is a born competitor who sets her sights on the podium every time she races. But she concedes that having her three children waiting for her on the finish line in France will feel like achievement enough.

“My children being able to be in Paris is definitely a motivation for coming back,” she said.

“There are all the big picture things like what my performance is going to be, how I'm going to do, what I'm going to get.

“And then representing a whole community of parents and wanting to fly the flag for them.

“All of these things feel really big, but then if I want to simplify it right down, I can just think of my three kids in the stands at Paris and go, 'Well, that’s enough.'

“They won't really care how I do, they'll just be proud of their mummy and having them on the journey will definitely be one of the most special parts of it all.”

Sportbeat 2023