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.
“I’m sure dinosaurs are still coming out on top of medals,” laughs the two-time Olympic champion. “When I went to the European Championships in Italy in April, I asked Logan what he wanted me to give him as a present and he said a pterodactyl.
“I came back and he saw my gold medal and he was amazed and put it on…then I pulled out this pterodactyl and it couldn’t have thrown the medal any faster!”
Helen Glover’s comeback to compete in Tokyo 2020 is one of Team GB’s best roster stories
Glover (L) took time to start a family after winning gold in Rio 2016 with Heather Stanning
That’s not to say that Logan — who turns three on Saturday when Glover competes in her women’s pair heats — doesn’t understand the importance of the Olympics. It’s even become a buzzword of his, as he’s spent the past 16 months watching his mom row in the living room or lift weights in the kitchen.
“He often asks me if I’ve done the Olympics yet,” Glover, 35, told Sportsmail. “Or if we race together and he wins, he says, ‘I won Olympic gold.’
“I remember one time I tried to explain to him that I have to train because I want to get good to go to the Olympics. I came back from training the next day and he said, “Are you all right? Can you go to the Olympics?”
“I don’t think a two-year-old has ever seen so much of an Olympic training program because I’ve done all the weights and ergo sessions at home. He now cheers me on when he sees me training. Normally he says: ‘Mommy, you can do it’.’
And Mom has done it, against all odds as a parent of three children under the age of three – Logan and twins Kit and Bo, a boy and a girl, who were born in January last year.
Glover has three children under three – Logan and twins Kit and Bo, born in January 2020
It’s what makes Glover’s roster for Tokyo one of the best British stories of the Games, regardless of how well she does on the Sea Forest Waterway over the next few days.
The Cornish rower took time out from the sport to start a family after winning her second Olympic gold with Heather Stanning in Rio 2016.
She expected to watch the 2020 Games at home on the couch, cuddling her kids with TV host Steve Backshall. But then the world changed – and Glover’s too. “It feels like a lockdown project that got out of hand,” she laughs. “I remember the moment I was sitting on the rowing machine during the twins’ nap and I just found out that the Olympics were being moved.
“I started daydreaming about going to the Olympics with a year of training and laughing at myself. That happened a few times, but it was still this 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 children under two, the twins were about 11 weeks old, we were in a global pandemic, all Steve’s work had gone out the window, I’d had four years off. One thing on that list would normally be enough to stop a comeback.”
And yet nothing could stop Glover. After ‘loose talks’ with British Rowing last summer, she returned to training with the team in December and announced her comeback in January.
In April she won the European Championship with new partner Polly Swann and last month was named in the team for Tokyo, where she will become the first mother to row for Great Britain at an Olympics.
It’s an achievement she considers the greatest of her career.
Glover (L) will be joined by Polly Swann (R) in the lightweight double sculls at Tokyo 2020
“It’s going to be one of the proudest things in my life,” said Glover, who is the subject of a BBC documentary tonight entitled The Mother of All Comebacks.
“It’s the most impactful thing I could hope to achieve. I didn’t do it for that reason, I didn’t do it to be a figurehead.
“But I’ve been really touched by the number of people who have told me how they felt after having children and what my comeback means to them. The support just amazed me.
“When I started it was for the kids and to make them proud, and then it became something much bigger.
‘At the Europeans, a woman told me that a French rower had just left and had a baby and she is now talking about a comeback. Even if no one else is doing it because no one else wants to, just knowing there is an option, there is a statement in itself.”
Then imagine what statement a medal would make. At last month’s team announcement, Glover’s crewmate Swann, who worked as a junior doctor during the pandemic, made it clear that their target was gold.
Glover, however, is keen to keep expectations in check, even though she has been undefeated in international racing since 2012.
“I wouldn’t say it’s all about gold, but it’s about being the best we can be,” she emphasizes. “The selection was the end of the story of my return and the beginning of my story of going to Tokyo as an athlete, mother or not. Me in training now is definitely a version of me that I recognized from back in the day.
Likewise, there has to be a realism of the fact that we haven’t played with the majority of the crews, we haven’t really competed against a full field and I haven’t done that in five years.
Glover (left) and Swann (right) trained for the Olympics at Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo Water
‘I have the feeling that the pressure is gone externally. But internally there will always be pressure to make sure we get the best possible result. We are two ambitious and competitive people. We’re going to be the very best athletes we can be and I’m really, really excited to see what that brings us.”
Looking ahead, Glover hints that Tokyo will definitely be the end – but the twinkle in her eye tells a different story.
“Physically, with three years until the next Olympics, there’s always that annoying voice of an athlete in you saying you can do it,” she adds. “There was obviously this time and it worked.
“But there’s also a big part of me that thinks this trip worked so well because it was only a year. I can handle a year.
“When I think about the next three years, there are things I want to do with my kids that I haven’t been able to do this year and that’s what really excites me.”
Whatever her words suggest, we’ve learned by now not to rule out anything about this supermum.
Yoplait Kids is the official yogurt of Team GB. The Moments of Gold campaign aims to motivate the next generation of athletes.