Helen Glover proud but keen to return home after missing rowing medal

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Comeback rower Helen Glover said she was proud to finish fourth with Polly Swann in the Olympic women’s pairs final and eager to return home to see her children (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)
Comeback rower Helen Glover said she was proud to finish fourth with Polly Swann in the Olympic women’s pairs final and eager to return home to see her children (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)

Comeback rower Helen Glover said she was proud to finish fourth with Polly Swann in the Olympic women’s pairs final and eager to return home to see her children.

Glover, the dual Olympic champion chasing glory at a third straight games after almost four years off to start a family, could not quite claim another medal as she and Swann trailed in winners New Zealand, the Russian Olympic Committee and third-placed Canada.

While the 35-year-old – who became the first mum to row for Britain at an Olympics – missed another chance at a medal, she said she was proud with her efforts as she confirmed these would be her last games.

The mother of three tweeted: “SO proud to make the Olympic final & come home with 4th. Polly Swann has been the most incredible teammate and you’ve all been amazing support. Thank you!! Now can we invent a teleport machine to get me straight home to the little ones??”

Glover told reporters she and Swann had given their all but were left with a mix of pride and frustration.

“The reward is knowing we crossed the line giving it our all, the frustration will be coming away thinking we had more and we didn’t,” she said.

“Had it been a flat water day we would have expected to come through for that last place but it wasn’t.

“It was very hard to challenge in the final sprint but we still tried.”

Helen Glover (John Walton/PA) (PA Wire)
Helen Glover (John Walton/PA) (PA Wire)

Glover also confirmed, as expected, this would be her last Olympics.

“In Rio I said it was my last one,” she told reporters. “This time I’m saying that it definitely is and everyone around me keeps saying ‘No, no, you’ll be back doing the single!’

“I definitely don’t see myself doing the single. That’s definitely not in the pipeline.”

Glover also sent an emotional message to her children. She and her husband, broadcaster and adventurer Steve Backshall are parents to three-year-old Logan and one-year-old twins Kit and Willow.

Trying and failing is not a problem, as long as you try

Helen Glover

She told BBC Sport: “They’re sometimes up at this time in the morning so they might be watching now.

“I love them so much, they’ve been my inspiration. I never saw myself getting back in a rowing boat until they came along. You can do anything you want to do.

“Trying and failing is not a problem, as long as you try. All the parents who have supported me on the way, thank you for your messages.”

UK Sport praised Glover and 33-year-old Swann, who has mixed training with working as an NHS doctor during the coronavirus pandemic – saying both were inspirations.

“Helen Glover makes history as the first mum to row for TeamGB with Polly Swann who juggled training with working as an NHS junior doctor during the pandemic,” the organisation tweeted.

“Neither woman needs a medal to prove they are superhuman and inspire the world.”

Swann told BBC Sport: “I think we always knew in the Olympic final people were going to go out hard.

“We thought we might have a bit more of a buffer but it wasn’t to be.”

She also said she was looking forward to returning to work for the NHS next week.

I’ve always been tempted to do a Helen Glover and do a bit of a rowing comeback

Polly Swann

“It’s at Borders General Hospital and I’m looking forward to having a new team behind me and seeing what I can do,” said Swann, adding her team-mate may have inspired her to stage a later comeback.

“I’ve always been tempted to do a Helen Glover and do a bit of a rowing comeback. Maybe one year to work, one year to have a baby, one year to come back – we’ll see!”

Meanwhile, there was more rowing heartache for Britain in the women’s lightweight double sculls, with Emily Craig and Imogen Grant missing a bronze medal by just 0.01 seconds.

In an incredible finish, the top four were separated by just half a second, with Italy taking gold from France and Holland.

“We left everything out there and obviously it was pretty gutting to not be coming away with a medal around our necks,” said Cambridge-based Grant.

In the pool, Scotland’s Duncan Scott won his semi-final to qualify for Friday’s men’s 200m individual medley final in lane five with the second-fastest time.

“I’ve done what I needed to do. I’ve got a good lane for the final tomorrow,” he said.

Cockermouth’s Luke Greenbank also won his semi-final to make the men’s 200m backstroke final with the second-best qualifying time.

“I’m really happy,” he said. “Second place into an Olympic final, it’s a dream come true, hopefully I can improve on that tomorrow.”

Staffordshire boxer Frazer Clarke was pleased with his 4-1 points victory over Ukraine’s Tsotne Rogava in the men’s super heavyweight round of 16.

“I’d rate it as a six out of 10,” he said of his performance. “There are a few more gears for me to get through first, the first one is always a bit nerve-wracking but I went in there confident, trusted myself, trusted my coaching team and I think I did myself proud.”

Elsewhere, Britain’s women began their rugby sevens campaign with a 14-12 victory over the Russian Olympic Committee team, thanks to a last-gasp try from co-captain Abbie Brown.

“It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t pretty but I think that’s what sevens is about,” Brown said. “We stayed in there, stayed in the fight and showed a lot of heart and desire which is exactly what this team is.

And there was joy for Ireland in rowing, with Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan earning the country’s first gold medal of these games in the men’s lightweight double sculls, overhauling Germany to win by less than a second.

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