Tokyo 2020: Choosing Helen Glover for the GB team is truly the mother of all comeback

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Tokyo 2020: Choosing Helen Glover for the GB team is truly the mother of all comeback

Helen Glover talks about the gift her kids want her to bring home from Tokyo — and it doesn’t come in gold, silver, or bronze.

The double Olympic champion laughs: “I know for sure that dinosaurs still outnumbered medals.” “When I went to European Championships at Italy In April, I asked Logan what he wanted me to return as a gift and he told me Pterodactyl.

“I came back and saw my gold medal and he was amazed at it and put it down… Then I got out that pterodactyl, he couldn’t have gotten rid of the medal faster!”

Helen Glover’s return to compete in Tokyo 2020 is one of the best GB team selection stories قصص

Glover (left) took some time to start a family after winning the gold medal at Rio 2016 with Heather Stanning.

Glover (left) took some time to start a family after winning the gold medal at Rio 2016 with Heather Stanning.

That’s not to say Logan — who turns three on Saturday when Glover is competing in her women’s doubles competition — doesn’t understand the importance of the Olympics. In fact, it’s become a buzzword for him watching his mother row in the living room or lift weights in the kitchen for the past 16 months.

‘He often asks me if I’ve been to the Olympics yet,’ Glover, 35, tells Sportsmail. Or if we play races together and he wins, he’s like, ‘I won the Olympic gold.

I remember one time trying to explain to him that I had to train because I wanted to be happy to go to the Olympics. I came back from training the next day and said, “Are you good yet? Can you go to the Olympics?”

I don’t think a 2-year-old has seen much of an Olympic training program because I’ve done all the weights and ergo sessions at home. He encourages me now when he sees me training. Usually he says, “Mama, you can do it.”

And Mummy did, against all odds as a father of three children under the age of three – Logan and Kate and Beau’s twins, a boy and a girl, born in January of last year.

Glover has three children under the age of three - Logan and twins Kate and Beau, who were born in January 2020

Glover has three children under the age of three – Logan and twins Kate and Beau, who were born in January 2020

That’s what makes Glover’s choice of Tokyo one of the best British stories for these games, no matter how well they perform at Sea Forest Waterway in the next few days.

Corniche rowing took some time to start a family after winning her second Olympic gold with Heather Stanning at Rio 2016.

She expected to watch the 2020 Games on the sofa at home, cuddling her children alongside TV presenter husband Steve Backshall. But then the world changed – and so did the world. “It feels like a shutdown project got out of hand,” she says with a smile. I remember the moment I sat on the rowing machine while the twins nap and just found out the Olympics are in motion.

I started daydreaming about going to the Olympics with a year of training and laughed at myself. It happened a few times, but it was still just a crazy fantasy. The first moment of reality was telling Steve about a month later.

The moment I said it, I realized it sounded ridiculous. I had three babies under two, the twins were about 11 weeks old, we were in a global pandemic, all of Steve’s work was done by the window, and I had four years off. Just one thing on that list would be enough to prevent a return.

However nothing can stop Glover. After “loose talks” with British Rowing last summer, she began training again with the team in December, then announced her return in January.

By April, she was winning the Europeans with her new partner Polly Swan, and last month she was named to the Tokyo team, where she will become the first mum to trap Great Britain at the Olympics.

It is an achievement that she ranks as the greatest achievement of her career.

Polly Swan (right) and Glover (left) will partner in Tokyo 2020 in lightweight twin paddle boats.

Polly Swan (right) and Glover (left) will partner in Tokyo 2020 in lightweight twin paddle boats.

“It’s going to be one of the things I’m most proud of in my life,” says Glover, who is the subject of tonight’s BBC documentary The Mother of All Comebacks.

It’s the most impactful thing I hope to achieve. I didn’t do it for that reason, and I didn’t do it to be photogenic.

But I was really touched by the number of people who told me how they felt after having children and what it meant to be back for them. The support just amazed me.

When I started, it was for the kids and for their pride, and then it became something so much bigger.

‘In Europeans, a woman told me that a French rower had just left and had given birth to a child and she is now talking of returning. Even if no one else does it because no one else wants it, just knowing the option is a statement in itself.

Imagine, then, what statement the medal would make. In the team’s announcement last month, Glover’s fellow cast member, Swann, who worked during the pandemic as a junior physician, explained that their goal was gold.

However, Glover is keen to maintain expectations, even though she has been unbeaten in international racing since 2012.

“I wouldn’t say it’s all about gold, but it’s all in the interest of being the best we can be,” she insists. The choice was a complete stopping point in my comeback story and the beginning of my story of heading to Tokyo as an athlete, or not. I’m in training now it’s definitely a version of me you’ve known before.

Likewise, there has to be realism to the fact that we haven’t raced the majority of crews, haven’t actually competed against an entire field and haven’t done that in five years.

Glover (left) and Swan (right) train at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo before the Olympics

Glover (left) and Swan (right) train at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo before the Olympics

I feel like the pressure has stopped from the outside. But internally there will always be pressure to make sure we get the best possible result. We are ambitious and competitive people. We’re going to be the best athletes that we can be, and I’m really excited to see what that brings us.

As for the future, Glover hints that Tokyo will certainly be the end — but the twinkle of her eye tells a different story.

“Physically, three years into the next Olympics, there’s always an annoying athlete’s voice inside of you saying you can do it,” she adds. Clearly he was there this time and it worked.

“But there’s also a big part of me that thinks this trip has worked out really well because it’s been one year. I can handle a year.”

“When I think about the next three years, there are things that I want to do with my kids that I haven’t been able to do this year and that really excites me.”

Whatever her words might suggest, we’ve now learned not to rule out anything about this super mom.

Yoplait Kids is the official GB team yogurt. Its Moments of Gold campaign aims to motivate the next generation of athletes.

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