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Helen Glover victorious on return to competitive action at the European Rowing Championships

Rachel Quarrell
·4-min read
Helen Glover and Polly Swann celebrate on the podium. - GETTY IMAGES
Helen Glover and Polly Swann celebrate on the podium. - GETTY IMAGES

Double Olympic champion Helen Glover dedicated her gold to her three children after she made a victorious comeback alongside Polly Swann at the European Rowing Championships.

The title was part of a triumphant return to form for the GB rowing team, with the British para-rowing squad kicking off the medal rush in Varese, Italy on Sunday before the men's four also majestically reclaimed their 2019 title - which they were not able to travel to defend last October - and the day was anchored by a gleeful victory when the men's eight rowed inexorably through Germany.

London and Rio champion Glover, who returned to full-time training in January 2021, was cheered on from home by her husband and three young children as she and Polly Swann resumed their 2013 partnership, which has never been defeated internationally. It was a nail-biting win of only 0.25 seconds, claimed after defending champions Romania put the British pair under severe pressure three different times during the race including a last desperate and nearly successful sprint to the line.

This weekend was the first time Glover had been apart from Logan, two-and-a-half, and twins Kit and Bo, 15 months, for an extended period of time and she told Telegraph Sport earlier in the week that it would "easily be the hardest part" of being in Italy.

After winning the final, she said: “I said to my mum that if she can video the kids watching that would be great, but I don’t know if she will have managed that with the technology and with three little ones around! But that win was for Logan, Kit and Bo and I hope they enjoyed it.

She added: "Coming into the race we decided the middle 1000m is where we wanted to be strong. Maybe that just left us missing a gear at the end, but I'm just happy that we dug in and got the result." Her partner Swann, who worked as a newly qualified NHS doctor last summer, said "I don't think we came here expecting to win, but it's really nice to put the cherry on top of the cake."

The British para-crews claimed their first ever European medals with gold for the mixed double and four, and silver for sculler Benjamin Pritchard. Pritchard, whose winter has been disrupted by medical issues, did well to hold 12 seconds behind Ukraine's reigning world champion, but the mixed crews stamped commanding authority on the other finals, the four falling only slightly short of beating their own world best time. "It's a moment in the history books - we are now the Paralympic, world and European champions", said Lauren Rowles after her victory in the double with Laurence Whiteley. "To hold all three titles at once is truly special."

Rowing results
Rowing results

Sholto Carnegie, Rory Gibbs, Matt Rossiter and Ollie Cook seized back the men's coxless fours gold imperiously, turning the screw on the Dutch 2020 champions and Romania in the second quarter of the race and rowing away in a style reminiscent of all Britain's best fours. "It was one of those races where things were just going our way from the start", said Cook. "Sitting on the start line the old feelings began to come back."

But the most spectacular race for Britain was the last, the men's eight taking Germany apart to seize gold after cox Henry Fieldman started calling pushes when they found themselves too far behind the world champions at halfway. "Henry said it was half a length but I thought it's less than that", said Tom George. "I screamed 'the time is now' deep out of my lungs three times, and we just went straight through." This was a turn-around for the eight this Olympiad, who have not managed to row through Germany since their glorious Olympic win in Rio. It was a turn-around for the team too, who have had to regroup after coaching and top athlete departures, but have put the lockdown to good use.

Vicky Thornley outraced the Swiss world champion brilliantly to claim another silver behind Hanna Prakhatsen, Russia's unnervingly good new recruit. The team claimed bronzes in both doubles and the women's four, while there were silvers for the women's quad and lightweight women's double. The men's pair and single had promising B-final results ahead of their attempt to qualify for Tokyo in May.