Helen Glover’s indomitable desire to continue paving the way for future generations of mothers in the elite sport has convinced the two-time Olympic rowing champion to find even more success in Paris next year.
The 36-year-old, who won the coxless doubles title alongside Heather Stanning in 2012 and 2016, has reversed her retirement decision to finish fourth at the postponed Tokyo Games in 2021, just a year after giving birth to twins.
Glover’s bid to qualify for a fourth Games — which will begin at the European Championships in Slovenia in May — is buoyed by the opportunity to continue normalizing participation by returning mothers at the top level.
“When I moved away from Tokyo, I was really proud of the fact that I did, but when I looked back, I wondered what changed for the next person,” Glover told the PA news agency.
“I felt that without pushing the boundaries even further, wanting more and asking more of myself as an athlete, nothing else would happen.
“I feel we are at prime time for mums in sport. There are so many mums across British sport who are not just coming back, but excelling and being better than they’ve ever been.
“I’ve always thought I’m the best mom I can be when I also have something exciting and challenging outside of parenthood. I really feel like a more active mom when that happens, and as long as the work-life balance always tilts in favor of the kids, I’m happy.”
Glover, who also has a son, four-year-old Logan, admitted she had no intention of continuing to go to Paris until she regained her motivation by taking part in the World Rowing Championships on the beach in Wales in October.
She was convinced to give the games another shot by her husband, TV presenter and naturalist Steve Backshall, who had noticed her excitement during the beach event, which Glover called “the catalyst” for deciding to return.
“The decision was made almost entirely because of my husband’s encouragement,” Glover added. “I never intended to go back and never put anything in place with the intention of continuing.
“After Tokyo I moved away, but in the summer I started doing some rowing races on the beach and was enjoying the challenge. When that was over Steve suggested I try out and it was almost amazing how welcoming those words were to me.”
Glover will still face major hurdles securing her spot on a boat to Paris, starting with a European and World Cup double ahead of the World Championships in Belgrade in September, which doubles as Great Britain’s selection.
She initially decided to embark on a quest to become the first mother to wedge for Britain in the Olympics as part of what she jokingly described at the time as “a lockdown project that has gone too far”.
On the heels of her achievement in Japan, there was no clue Glover would turn her attention to Paris, but ironically the scale of the achievement, which developed from such unique times, eventually contributed to the conviction that she had something else to prove.
“What changed Tokyo for me was any question of whether that was even possible,” Glover added. “The whole process was very short, there was Covid and I had just had the twins and I don’t think I really thought it could be done.
“At the end of it all I thought was, ‘I did it under all those challenges, so why can’t I do it right now?'” “Before it was about doing something that hadn’t been done before. Now it’s about trying to do it along with being the best I can be.”
Like fellow double Olympic gold medalist Max Whitlock, Glover is also keen on competing in front of her young children. Three-year-old twins Kate and Willow are just around the corner and ready to watch their mom compete live for the first time.
“All of these big pictures, all of this trying to change the face of women in sports, it can be very daunting and very big,” Glover said.
“Then I think about the simplicity of looking up to my kids and seeing them in the grandstand and I think that would be great whatever the outcome. They are definitely at the age where they can come out and watch me compete. If they see that happen, I think it would bring it all together.”
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