Helen Glover may be double Olympic champion, and the most successful female rower in the world, but when it comes to planning a wedding she wouldn’t even make the team. The 30 year old, who won a second gold with partner and maid-of-honour Heather Stanning in the women’s pair at the Lagoa Stadium, could not even remember the date of her forthcoming wedding.
Speaking fresh from the party plane which landed at Heathrow Terminal Five from Rio on Tuesday, Glover laughed about how little she knew about her big day. “Planning the wedding … You should really speak to my mum about that. I knew if I was going to get married after the Olympics I wouldn’t be able to plan it. Most brides have a 100-day countdown,” she laughed. “But I only have a 10-day countdown … or something like that. I’ll find out the date!” Stanning interjected reassuringly: “She will be there!”
The bride-to-be added: “I’ll probably be the world’s most relaxed bride, but it’s going to be quite a relaxed wedding anyway. It’ll be nice.” For the record Glover will marry wildlife presenter and adventurer Steve Backshall on September 10 in Penzance on a Cornish beach where she used to play as a child.
After winning one of Team GB’s 27 gold medals in their record-breaking 67-medal haul, the pair watched as many sports as they could, including beach volleyball, synchronised swimming and weightlifting.
Stanning also threw Glover a Rio-inspired hen party, which included games like naming vegetables without showing your teeth (try it, it’s much harder than you think). She also took on samba dancing, and despite believing she had potential, Glover admits the reaction from the locals wasn’t particularly positive. “I am now a world-class samba dancer, but a man actually came up and laughed at me in the club which was unfair. It was great, where else would you want a hen do?” she said.
When the duo won gold, their partners Steve and Jonny, were filmed cheering them on. But it was Backshall’s emotional response to Glover’s triumph which won hearts. Speaking to BBC Sport, he sobbed: “I am so proud. The amount of work they put in, all those hours, all that effort, winter mornings when it’s freezing cold and it’s still dark, and they are thrashing every single stroke, it was all about today.
“It was all about coming here and defending their title. They have been unbelievable. It’s a totally overwhelming feeling, but they totally deserve it. They have been head and shoulders above everyone else this whole Olympiad. They are just a remarkable team and they’ve done us all very proud.” The 43 year old, who has appeared on Strictly Come Dancing, told The Times he has taken on much of the planning, and that Helen would just have to “trust him”.
Glover laughed when she recalled Backshall’s reaction to her winning gold. “They are the people who see the dark times, they are the people who see how much it means to you. Nobody knows as much as our friends and family what we put into this,” she explained. “They’ve seen tears, they’ve seen us falling asleep on the sofa at eight o’clock at night. They’ve picked us up, they’ve done everything. They essentially don’t care how we do, they love us and they want us to be happy. But we’ll only be happy with the gold.
“To lose would have been crushing. And we were hyper-aware of that because we’ve won it once. And we hadn’t been beaten in four years; you can’t win every race and lose the last one. None of those races matter in the context of the Olympic Games and sitting there knowing that, knowing it could have been taken away from us in the next seven minutes, heaps on a load of pressure.
“They care because they know they’ll have to put up with us in a mood for a month if we don’t win. I remember there being a point where I worried that having the wedding in September might be too soon if we hadn’t won and I still wasn’t over the disappointment. They want to see us do well because they see how much we put into it. So I think the outpouring of emotion just reflects pure relief at me not being grumpy!”
It is too soon for Glover and Stanning to talk about the prospect of securing a hat-trick of titles in Tokyo 2020. For now, it’s all about friends, family and enjoying home life again.
Stanning said: “We want to enjoy this moment and everything we’ve achieved in the last four, even six years. We just need to take some time and take stock, and if we want to commit to Tokyo, we know we will do it for the right reasons. We’re going to have some time off and live normal lives for a while! And then decide in due course.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Winter is a sports journalist, presenter and event host. She worked in sports communications for the International Rowing Federation for two years, before working and training as a journalist in Gloucestershire, covering a variety of sports including rugby, boxing, football, and triathlon. She then turned freelance at the end of 2014 and is part of the team who founded Voxwomen, a women’s cycling show that seeks to give the female elite peloton the coverage they deserve. Laura’s latest articles.