Nick Westby: Late starter Glover serves as a timely inspiration to others

Not only is Helen Glover an Olympic champion and a groundbreaker in women’s rowing, she is also an inspiration to those of us who think it might be a little too late to go for gold ourselves.

One half of Britain’s gold medal-winning women’s pair at Eton Dorney yesterday, Glover only took up rowing four years ago.

Now she and Heather Stanning – herself a person to admire given that she heads back to the front line in Afghanistan next month as part of the Royal Artillery – are Olympic champions.

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They made history in doing so, as the first female rowers from this country to land the highest accolade in sport.

They also blazed a trail for the likes of Bradley Wiggins and the rest of the British team to follow over the coming days. The rise of Glover, in particular, is remarkable, considering she only began rowing two months before the Beijing Games of 2008.

Before then, the 26-year-old from Penzance had no rowing experience.

She was fast-tracked after being signed up to the Sporting Giants programme run by UK Sport to find tall, powerful and raw talent that could be turned into rowers, handball or volleyball players.

She was put on to the GB Rowing Team’s Start programme in Bath and trained by the scheme’s coach Paul Stannard. And as the men’s four of Hebden’s Andrew Triggs Hodge won gold and Guiseley’s Debbie Flood won silver in Beijing, Glover watched on from the programme’s boot camp in Nottingham.

As she sat around watching the action with her team-mates, she decided not only that she wanted a piece of the action, but a slice of history herself.

Yesterday she fulfilled that aspiration, proving that the most ambitious of dreams can come true.

When London won the bid to host the Games back in 2005, part of the promise was that the Olympics in this country would inspire a generation.

If they need a poster girl to fit that profile, they need look no further than Glover.

For the legacy of an Olympics is not just in bricks and mortar, but in deeds. Children, teenagers, people of all ages, need to be inspired to get up and get active from what they see in London.

As we sit and watch the Games back home; from rowing to cycling, archery to beach volleyball, the scope for gaining inspiration is both wide and varied.

If Helen Glover can go from sports fan and PE teacher to Olympic champion in one four-year cycle, whose to say a champion in Rio in four years time is not sat in their front room now, feeling moved to action by the accomplishments they see on their television screens.