Birthdate17 Jun 1986
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It has been a short, swift road to the pinnacle of the sport for Great Britain’s Helen Glover. At the London 2012 Olympic Games Glover not only won gold but, along with her women’s pair partner Heather Stanning, she became the first British woman to win an Olympic Champion title in rowing.
The journey began in 2008 when Helen was ‘discovered’ through the British talent ID scheme, ‘sporting giants.’ Narrowed down from several thousand applicants to a final 30, Stanning’s rowing talent was quickly recognised. Just two years after picking up an oar Helen was competing internationally as the third British pair. By the end of the season, at the World Rowing Championships, Helen was part of the number one crew and a silver medal around her neck.
A meagre four years into the sport, Helen had secured the biggest prize. There is no stopping her now and for 2013, with new partner Polly Swann, Helen has gone unbeaten.
World Rowing is privileged to have Helen as our September Athlete of the Month and got the opportunity to interview her during the World Rowing Championships in Chungju, Korea and afterwards during her end of season break.
World Rowing: Are there any rowers in your family? Any influences for you in the sport?
Helen Glover: Nobody in my family has ever rowed! We didn't know much about the sport until five years ago. My dad was a very impressive sportsman and excelled in rugby so I've always have extremely sporty influences around me growing up. Both of my parents have been hugely supportive and now my whole family are huge rowing fans.
WR: If you hadn’t ended up in rowing, what sport do you think you would have pursued?
HG: I love all sports. If I wasn’t rowing it would definitely give me a chance to play hockey, tennis, run and swim, which I miss when I'm rowing training. If I had more spare time to go home to the coast I would surf again, which I stopped doing when I started rowing.
WR: What did you know about rowing before you started?
HG: I barely knew anything. I watched the Beijing Olympics on TV shortly after I had first sat in a boat and realised what I had let myself in for.
WR: I understand you represented Great Britain at junior cross-country. Do you still do a lot of running?
HG: When I was younger I ran cross country and middle distance internationally. I don't really run that much now I am a rower, however when I get home to Cornwall I do love to put on my headphones and run on the beach.
HG: Earlier this year you won the British singles trials. How much training have you done in the single?
WR: Not a huge amount. I learnt to row in the single for about a year and a half, until I got on the team in 2010. From then on I have been in sweep boats so I only get a couple of months a year to practice sculling. Winning the singles trial was a highlight for me this year as it was such a different and individual goal after the pressure of last year’s Olympics.
WR: Leading up to this year’s World Rowing Championships, how did you acclimatise for Chungju?
HG: I flew out to Chungju in pretty good shape, after a solid training block since Lucerne. I didn't really do anything special in order to acclimatise – just being patient with the jet lag and trusting that by the time racing started I would feel 'normal' and adjusted again.
WR: What kind of rowing conditions do you prefer the most?
HG: I really don't have a preference. Obviously it’s exciting to get fast conditions and get the opportunity to break personal bests on the water. In training we have had some great results in tailwinds. However both my World and Olympic titles were won in headwind, slow conditions.
WR: Your pair has dominated this year’s racing season; do you feel any pressure from being the ones to beat?
HG: I definitely feel a level of pressure and expectation. I don't think that’s a bad thing, I think we have shown some good speed and put ourselves in front as the 'ones to beat.' We take nothing for granted and respect for our competitors keeps us striving for more. Coming out of the London Olympics there are definitely more Brits watching me with expectation, which is a lot of pressure, but a huge amount of support comes with it.
WR: What do you like to do in the hour before your race?
HG: An hour before my race I try to start focussing in and thinking about what I am about to do. My coach Robin Williams always knows the right thing to say or do to either lift the mood or focus us in.
WR: What do you like to do in between racing to relax here in Chungju?
HG: I have been amazed by how pretty it is here in Chungju so going for a walk is always a nice way to relax between races. Other than that I've been going through even more box sets (TV series) than I get through on training camp!
World Rowing: How was your final at the World Rowing Championships?
Helen Glover: I really enjoyed the final. We had talked about what to do if another boat went out hard so when the USA got a good start we just stayed relaxed and didn't change our plan. From half way it was about holding our focus and mainly not making mistakes.
WR: What are the roles in the boat for you and Polly?
HG: Being more experienced in the boat I do take charge a bit, like I did with Heather (Stanning). I enjoy doing the calls and learning about the boat. Polly brings a lot of personality to the way she rows and has a competitive nature which is great for racing.
WR: If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting out in the pair what would it be?
HG: Be patient with it! All boats take time, but a pair can get frustrating if you don't relax and listen to your rowing partner as you might be feeling two completely different things.
WR: Do you and Polly have similar training styles and approaches or different?
HG: Polly and I are pretty similar in our training style. Neither of us likes to miss a session and we can be quite intense in the way we go about our training. Having had a bit more time in the squad I know what to expect from different training camps and how we should feel at the end of each one, which has been great this year as we can chat and make sure we are both in a good place.
WR: Have you taken some time off of rowing following the World Rowing Championships?
HG: We have a three week break after the championships every year. This is my only chance to see my family and friends and get away on holiday. I tend to pack in as much as I can during this time, and have been visiting some schools as well as the usual catching up with people.
WR: What are you doing to keep fit (if anything) during this time?
HG: I don't do too much in this time- I think it’s good to give your body and mind a good break. But at home my whole family is active and sporty so I keep my fitness reasonably well by kayaking, surfing and walking on the beach at home.
WR: Have you been in a rowing boat since the Chungju women’s pair final?
HG: No, it always feels strange getting back in a boat after such a long break, but I think it gives you an appreciation of how the boat moves.
WR: What was the interest like in the World Championship rowing when you returned to Great Britain?
HG: There was quite a lot of interest. I think that since the Olympics people in the UK have been following rowing results and wanting to know how we are following-up on our Olympic results. It is really nice having the support from home.
WR: When will you return to training again?
HG: We return on the 24th of September.
WR: Do you know when your next race will be?
HG: We have some domestic racing to do in October ahead of the usual selection trials through the winter.
WR: Have you got any plans for the coming season at this stage?
HG: I plan to retain my seat in the pair and by the summer to have a faster pair than this year’s one so we can look at retaining the World Championship title we won this year.