Helen Glover, the double Olympic rowing champion who came out of retirement last year in a bid to win a third gold medal in what she has described as a “lockdown project that’s gone too far”, insisted there was “more to come” after finishing third in her women’s pair heat with Polly Swann and qualifying for the semi-finals.
Glover made history when she took to the water at the Sea Forest Waterway on Saturday, becoming in the process the first mother to compete for Britain’s Olympic rowing team. The duo finished third behind Australia and the ROC, the Russian Olympic Committee, at the Sea Forest Waterway, and will compete next in the semi-finals on Tuesday.
But elsewhere on the first full morning of Games action in Tokyo there was disappointment for British shooting medal hope Seonaid McIntosh, who crashed out at the qualifying stage in the women’s 10m air rifle, the first medal event of these Games.
Glover, who only returned to training in 2020 and competitive racing in April following almost four years out of the boat after starting a family, admitted it had not been a “perfect” race for her and Swann. The 35-year-old, who won gold in 2012 and 2016 with Heather Stanning, said: “It’s good to progress to the next round, we both know there is more to come as it wasn’t a perfect row but I guess there’s definitely value in learning in the early rounds.
“We are open to what is coming next. We know we have done better in training, it would be more frustrating if we had a perfect row and didn’t have anything to improve on.”
Glover has three young children and revealed after Saturday’s heat that it was her son Logan’s birthday. “He’s three today. So there are so many more important things going on than just racing a heat in Tokyo.
“There’s my little boy at home, we’ll celebrate when I get back. When I think about what they all mean to me, especially on a day like his birthday, everything I do out there on the water is definitely for them. The twins are too young, so they are just toddling around, not knowing what’s going on. Logan sent a video message last night and said he was proud of me.
“A big part of wanting to do this was to bring them along for the journey and I think now they are seeing the fruits of the labour of the ergos [training machine] in the living room and the watt bike in the utility room, and lifting weights between making their dinner. It makes sense a little bit. Putting all that hard work into the journey with them alongside me is key.
“I’ll get Polly to sing happy birthday to him with me later. But especially because Steve [Backshall, Glover’s husband] is home with them, they are fine. They will see mummy on the phone and they are happy.”
There was, meanwhile, considerable frustration for Edinburgh-born shooter McIntosh as she missed out on a place in the final of the first medal event of the Games at the Asaka Shooting Range. The 25-year-old finished 12th of 50 starters in the women’s 10m air rifle, just 1.3 points off a top-eight spot that would have kept her medal chances alive.
No British female shooter has won an Olympic medal, and McIntosh admitted that she “struggled a bit” with the early morning heat during more than an hour of competition. China’s Yang Qian won the Games’ first gold medal, edging out Anastasiia Galashina, representing the Russian Olympic Committee, with Switzerland’s Nina Christen taking bronze.