Golden pair row into history with stunning victory

Golden girls Helen Glover and Heather Stanning have rowed into the record books by becoming the first British women to take an Olympic gold in their sport.

The pair claimed Team GB’s first gold medal of London 2012 yesterday after leading from the front in a dominant performance which saw the opposition trail in their wake.

After crossing the line the rowers hugged each other with joy and then saluted the ecstatic crowd at Eton Dorney, which included Princes William and Harry and the Princess Royal.

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Glover, who had appeared to be smiling in the last quarter of the race, said: “It was probably a grimace. I don’t remember smiling because I remember never, ever, ever thinking we’ve got this.”

She hoped the performance would inspire others, however.

“If I can do it, just take the chance – not just rowing, anything. If you work hard, and try your best absolutely anyone can do anything,” she added.

Glover, 26, a former PE teacher from Penzance, Cornwall, has been rowing for only four years after starting through the Sporting Giants scheme, set up by UK Sport to identify British sporting talent with a view to London 2012.

She was paired with Stanning, a 27-year-old Royal Artillery captain from Lossiemouth in Moray, Scotland, in the Bath training programme three years ago.

Stanning said: “I’m absolutely shattered and absolutely ecstatic at the same time.

“I want to collapse but I’m just so overjoyed, I just want to jump around at the same time.”

The pair were home favourites for the race after setting an Olympic record of six minutes 57.29 seconds in their heat.

Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said: “It is an absolutely fantastic result. First home gold and the first ever female rowing gold medal, so two pieces of Olympic history and a really great race.”

Speaking at the finish line, Glover’s mother Rachel said the whole family was “absolutely delighted” with her victory.

Mrs Glover said: “It’s been a very meteoric, rapid rise and a fast learning curve both for her and for us. We’re still trying to get to grips with all the ins and outs of rowing.”

Glover’s boyfriend, fitness coach Paddy Hagben, 28, said: “Those girls have been absolutely fantastic since they made the British squad, they’ve hardly put a foot wrong.”

Mr Hagben, who has been with Glover for four years after they met at Bath University, went on: “Here we find them going for Britain’s first ever women’s rowing medal, the first (British gold) medal of an Olympic Games – the pressure of that’s huge.

“We’re talking about two girls who have not been here before, so to go out there and deliver like that, for me, it’s a piece a sporting history, absolutely amazing.”

The pair were also congratulated yesterday by military colleagues of Stanning, who is expected to deploy to Helmand Province next year.

Her commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Craig Palmer of the Royal Artillery, praised their “excellent achievement” and said Stanning’s comrades from 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery had been thrilled to watch the race from their bases in Afghanistan.

“I am sure that they have been inspired by her performance and we look forward to welcoming her back to the regiment later this year. I know that she is keen to deploy with her soldiers to Helmand in 2013,” he said.

The regimental colonel of the Royal Artillery, Colonel Roddy Lee, said: “We are immensely proud of Capt Stanning. She is a credit to the Royal Regiment of Artillery, to the Army and to the nation. The whole regiment has been behind Heather today.

“It is an ‘oarsome’ achievement and we look forward to welcoming her back into 32 Regt RA and the wider regimental family.”

Commander land forces General Sir Nick Parker said: “The Army has been very proud to support Heather in her preparations to London 2012, and I have no doubt that soldiers across the globe will be sharing in her success today.” he said.