Nine years after making history by becoming Great Britain’s first gold medallist of London 2012 alongside team-mate Heather Stanning, Helen Glover has declared her ambition to give the Olympics one more shot.
Glover has not tired of the history-making feats that saw the pair become Britain’s first female rowing champions and go on to dominate their sport, winning world and European titles before parting ways in the wake of their second Olympic triumph in Rio.
While Stanning resolutely announced her retirement two months later, Glover kept her options open, retreating from the sport to marry TV presenter Steve Backshall and start a family, but never quite making the end of her glittering Olympic odyssey official.
It proved a prescient move as Glover, now with three children under the age of three, has submitted to the itch to achieve one more sporting milestone by becoming the first British woman to be selected for the rowing team for the Games after having children.
Glover told the PA news agency: “When the new year rang in 2020 and we expected the Games to be going ahead in six months’ time, I was just about to have twins and was looking forward to watching the Olympics from my sofa.
“I was very much prepared to be not involved, and definitely at the realisation that Olympics and rowing wouldn’t be a part of my future. It’s not something I anticipated or expected – I still tell myself it’s not really happening.”
Glover’s urge to return took shape during the long, unlikely months of the initial lockdown, and became tangible when the International Olympic Committee made the unprecedented move to postpone the Tokyo Games for 12 months.
Glover acknowledged the desire to make more history became central to her ambition of forcing her way back into the British rowing squad for Tokyo.
“It is probably the motivator for me, no woman has returned to the sport after having children and made it to an Olympic team, and that is huge,” added Glover.
“It has to be done at some point, and if not by me, I want it to be done by someone else. Having a daughter now, all these things become really apparent.
“I want to be a really good role model for her and other girls, to show them that it doesn’t have to be in rowing but in whatever you want – somebody has to break that barrier, and show it can be done.”
Glover, now 34, laughed off suggestions she might have tried to coax Stanning out of retirement to reforge their imposing partnership – “she would have hung up on me!” – and will instead work within the GB squad to determine for which boat she is best suited.
And as she homes in on an improbable return to Olympic action, she reflected on the unusual circumstances which made her return from the brink of retirement something that was possible.
“I would obviously never choose to have had this year, but everybody has their way of getting through and sport has always been my way of doing that,” said Glover.
“It slowly developed from training during the babies’ nap schedules to seeing some scores coming back and getting excited and thinking it could be done.
“I would have thought it was ridiculous then it seemed less ridiculous as the weeks ticked by. There wasn’t a lot else going on, so it seemed like a good opportunity just to try.”