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Helen Glover and Heather Stanning profiles: Team GB’s gold medal winners

1st August 2012

An army captain who could be sent to Afghanistan this autumn and a former sports student who took up rowing just five years

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 daughter of former Cornwall rugby captain Jimmy Glover, her mian sports 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 fellow rower Heather Stanning’s potential three years earlier.

Now, as she makes her Olympics debut, Truro-born, Penzance-raised Glover already has a cluster of medals in her back pocket, having – along with crewmate Stanning – struck gold at this year’s World Cup Series, taken silver at last year’s world rowing championships in Bled, Slovenia, and winning 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 then world champions and host nation 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’.”

Heather Stanning

For most Olympians, taking part in this summer’s Games is by far the most daunting challenge they are likely to face all year. For Heather Stanning, however, this is not necessarily true. A captain in the Royal Artillery, she was released from duties to train full-time but could potentially be sent to Afghanistan this autumn.

Before that, though, comes her first Olympics. Stanning, 27, who was born in Yeovil but raised in Lossiemouth in Scotland and educated at Bath University, where she graduated in sports technology, started rowing seriously in 2006 when she joined the Team GB Start programme. Since then she has gone from strength to strength, proving her early talent by winning the women’s pair competition at the 2007 world under-23 championships and in 2008 coming first in the Remenham Challenge Cup at Henley royal regatta.

She was commissioned from Sandhurst college into the Royal Artillery in August of the same year.

But it was only once she was paired with Helen Glover that things started to take off in a big way. The duo made a name for themselves in 2010 with strong performances in the World Cup Series and a heroic silver at the World Rowing Championships – and since then have never looked back.

Once the Games are done in September, Stanning has said that she will go back to her work in the Royal Artillery barracks at Larkhill. Her military experience helps her put the sport into perspective, she says. “The army training has given me determination and toughness. A year at Sandhurst – you don’t just float through that. It has shaped me as a person and helped me to get where I am. Training for the army has given me perspective in that what I’m doing now isn’t the be-all and end-all. Although rowing is important for me at the moment, I have a bigger picture to look at,” she was quoted as saying in the Sun.


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