Tokyo Olympics: Helen Glover rules out another Games bid

Helen Glover and Polly Swann: GB pair finish fourth in rowing final at the Tokyo Olympics
Dates: 23 July-8 August Time in Tokyo: BST +8
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Britain’s two-time gold medallist Helen Glover has ruled out another Olympics rowing bid after the mother-of-three’s hopes of a fairytale finish at Tokyo 2020 were dashed.

Glover, 35, and Polly Swann, 33, finished fourth in the women’s pair.

“In Rio I said it was my last one. This time I’m saying ‘no, it’s definitely it’,” said Glover.

Emily Craig and Imogen Grant missed out on a medal by 0.01sec in a thrilling lightweight women’s double sculls.

Those two narrow misses added up to further frustration for Team GB on Thursday as they have now finished fourth in five events at the Sea Forest Waterway.

So far Team GB has only one rowing medal, the silver claimed by Harry Leask, Angus Groom, Tom Barras and Jack Beaumont in a tight men’s quadruple sculls race on Wednesday.

Tokyo Olympics: Rowers Emily Craig and Imogen Grant come fourth in women’s double sculls

Britain was the leading rowing nation at Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016, claiming six, nine and five medals respectively at those Games.

Glover, who won gold in 2012 and 2016, was aiming to become the first British woman to win at three Olympics.

“We’re pleased with the result – it shows our hard work,” said Glover, who started her comeback last March.

Craig and Grant finished fourth in a race that British five-time rowing medallist Dame Katherine Grainger described as “a great advert” for lightweight rowing.

Italy pipped France to gold, with the Netherlands edging out the British pair for the bronze – the four crews separated by just half a second.

“Emily Craig and Imogen Grant haven’t put a foot wrong but it just came down to one final stroke at the end,” said Grainger, who won medals in five successive Games between 2000 and 2016.

The four crews in the lightweight women's double sculls were separated by just half a second
The photo finish in the lightweight women’s double sculls.

Final result in the lightweight women's double sculls

Glover & Swann reflect on an exciting journey

Glover, who gave birth to twins Kit and Willow last year, is the first mother to make the nation’s Olympic rowing team. She and her husband, television presenter Steve Backshall, had son Logan in 2019.

Her comeback began last March, when the Tokyo Games were postponed for 12 months until this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic.

She reunited with Swann, who partnered Glover when Heather Stanning took a break after London 2012.

“For both of us, this has felt more like a journey than anything we’ve done. We even look to the route of getting to the start line and how many crews fall to the wayside,” said Glover, after New Zealand, the Russian Olympic Committee and Canada took the medals.

“You can never say that a place in the final isn’t exciting.

“The last year for both of us is one we’re going to look back on and I think when you’re caught up in the moment of it and the day-to-day grind of only having one year, it feels so immediate.

“I’ll come to look back in a few years and think, ‘how did I do that?’ ‘What was that year about?'”

Swann, an NHS doctor, was also seeking to cap a stunning comeback after taking a break to focus on her medical career.

“For Helen, she was looking after three kids. For me, I was working in a hospital a year ago today,” said Swann.

“I don’t think there’s many people in the Olympic athlete set-up that can say these things and be in a final.

“We certainly fought our all to try and get onto that podium. I can’t fault our determination for that, and more so the way that we fought every day in training.”

Glover & Swann should be proud – analysis

Dame Katherine Grainger, British five-time rowing medallist on BBC TV:

“It always feels hard and harsh talking about another fourth place but when they have let that result sink in they will be incredibly proud.

“They took on an enormous challenge and they have done it in style.

“They have raised awareness and talked about issues. They were very, very competitive.”

James Cracknell, two-time Olympic gold medallist on BBC TV:

“That is still an outstanding result for Glover and Swann.

“What cost them a medal was why you train for four years, you lose the spring at either end of the race – the start and the sprint finish.

“They had a lack of top speed.”

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