Helen Glover will be on the water at next year's Olympic Games
Supermum goes back in the deep end! Cheered on by her three kids, double Olympic champion Helen Glover will row for Great Britain at the Paris Games next year… aged 38
- Helen Glover is an exceptional rower that took gold in both London and Rio
- She then returned after four years and three children to compete in Tokyo
- Glover will now feature at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris at the age of 38
There are a few ties that bind those strangers — from all corners of the world — who clog up Helen Glover’s inbox.
They tend to be parents. And they often want to know the same thing. ‘How?’ the double Olympic champion says. It’s a fair question. At this point, so is: why? And: where will all this end?
Because the remarkable tale of this mother of three recently took another bonkers twist. Yep, she’s back. Back again. Should all go to plan, Glover will be on the water at next year’s Paris Olympics. She will be 38.
The rower, who took gold in London and Rio, returned after four years and three children to tackle Tokyo — and become the first mother to represent British Rowing at the Olympics.
Glover finished fourth alongside Polly Swann — and she fully intended to pack it in once more. So what happened?
Helen Glover is an exceptional rower that took gold in both the London and Rio Olympic Games
She then returned after four years and three children to compete in Tokyo Olympic Games
Glover (pictured on the left) will now feature at the 2024 Games in Paris at the age of 38
‘I am finding it hard to walk away, clearly,’ Glover says. ‘It sounds crazy but when I first thought about retirement, I was thinking, ‘It would be great to have a career-ending injury. Take the decision away from me’. But the door is open until someone shuts it for you.’
And last October, Glover’s husband — presenter and adventurer Steve Backshall — nudged her back through it.
He planted the seed shortly before British Rowing’s first selection trials for 2023. While on the school run, if Glover remembers correctly.
‘I think you should trial,’ he said. Her reply: ‘You do know, if I do well at trial, I will be doing it again?’ He said: ‘Absolutely. I have seen you, you’re not done!’
He was right, she won.
Now Glover is targeting another medal in Paris. ‘My kids would be there,’ she says. ‘It would be the ultimate.’ But the 36-year-old also has a higher cause.
‘If I go to Paris and get on the podium that really solidifies the pathway for women to come on after me — to be able to have children and train,’ she says.
First, Glover needs to earn her spot. But the signs are encouraging. ‘I have every reason to believe I can be as good, or better, than I have ever been,’ she insists.
Glover has remained in shape — and in touch with the sport — through beach sprint rowing. It’s a growing format that will feature at the 2026 Commonwealth Games. And perhaps the 2028 Olympics. She couldn’t, could she? ‘I’ve got no plans to,’ Glover smiles. But we’ve heard that before.
Glover pictured alongside Heather Stanning after winning gold at the London 2012 games
Back to that pressing question: how?
Glover begins every day by offloading the children and heading to British Rowing’s Caversham base, where the first of two water sessions begins around 7.30am. ‘I’ll bomb back home for nursery pick-up,’ she explains. That allows her to spend the afternoon with twins Kit and Bo, aged three.
Later she will collect Logan, four, from school and ferry him to extra-curricular activities.
‘Then, usually when they’ve gone to bed, I do my third session. That takes place at home and might run as late as 10pm. Then you get to bed and an hour later the first one wakes up!’ She endeavours to follow her routine ‘whether (I have) one hour sleep or seven’.
‘Sometimes I am literally just keeping my head above water,’ Glover says. ‘Where I am at breaking point, thinking it can’t be done.’ No wonder other parents get in touch.
‘Before this, I could not have operated on this little sleep,’ she says. Her old pattern? Nine hours a night, two naps a day, and any extra minutes while on the road. Now? ‘You just get on with it. The amount of mums I speak to who nod like, ‘I know!’
This hybrid, more ad hoc schedule already speaks to a ‘big shift’ within British Rowing. Traditionally, every session is in-house. So Glover is grateful to her coaches and her new team-mates for allowing her to bend the rules.
Fans couldn’t help but smile after Glover was reunited with her children after the Tokyo games
Glover competed in the Women’s Pair Semifinal A/B 1 alongside Polly Swann
The reality, though? ‘The most important thing I do is being a mum.’ And so the success of this venture depends on certain ‘non-negotiables’. For one: ‘I’m there for pickup, their afternoons, their clubs.’ All of which helps to explain the why.
‘I never want it to be seen that I am doing this despite being a parent,’ Glover says.
‘Having the comeback as a mum (in Tokyo)… was probably the most important thing I’ve done in my career. Including the golds.’
‘I look back on it now almost with a hint of frustration. I was questioning it and I was so questioned as well,’ Glover explains. ‘I don’t think a lot changed for the next person.’
This time round, the 36-year-old wants to help lay the foundations for lasting change. And not just here: rowers from the French team are said to be cheering Glover on, hoping she can effect change in their own country.
‘The more I see it from this side of things, the more I think the motherhood and empowerment of mothers is something I really care about,’ she explains.
‘I don’t think it should come down to just wanting to win an Olympics. It should come down to every single parent — mum and dad — feeling like there’s no guilt associated with wanting to be the best version of yourself.’
Glover believes the added goals, provided by rowing, make her a better parent. And that life as a mother helps make her a better athlete.
‘Often when it comes up to racing, I get a bit withdrawn, a bit quieter, I can be a bit nervous and anxious,’ she says. ‘I will not be like that for my kids because they’re the most important thing. Things like that bring out the best in me.’
Even in Paris, her children will make a difference from the water’s edge.
Glover begins every day by offloading the children and heading to their Caversham base
‘It’ll take the pressure of results off. Because I really don’t think my kids will care where I cross the line,’ Glover says.
Plenty will, though. And should she reach that podium, familiar questions will no doubt resurface.
‘There will be a time when I cannot do it. That time is probably not too far away,’ Glover says.
‘Until that day comes I feel like, if I am enjoying it, if it is making me a better parent, it is making me a better person, then I should be doing it.’
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