EVER since beating her twin brother Nathan to be born minutes ahead of him at Treliske Hospital in Truro 26 years ago, Helen Glover has been a winner.
Her dad Jimmy told an audience of invited guests at Humphry Davy School that her twin brother said after her win at Eton Dorney: “Even when we were born I had the damn silver.”
But despite being a “winner” and naturally gifted at sports, Helen has also worked extremely hard.
As a young cross-country runner, she would spend hours running along the sand dunes at Gwithian or practising her hockey, netball or tennis for the various teams she played in.
And when she was selected through the Sporting Giants’ scheme to train as a rower, she “worked and worked and worked”, her dad said.
“The schedule she had would have killed most of us,” said Jimmy, a former captain of the Pirates rugby team and keen sportsman himself.
“Three two-hour sessions every day, sometimes up to seven, eight or nine hours a day when you include everything and all of it amazingly difficult. She had a great coach, which made a tremendous difference, and a great partner. What they achieved was amazing and I didn’t believe it could happen.
“One of the reasons she achieved it was because she had fantastic support from her mother. I had little to do with her success, partly because I had never been in a boat and couldn’t give her any bad advice but Rachel helped her in every way possible and much of her success is down to her.”
Rachel Glover, who stayed in London for ten days after Helen’s victory but says she hardly managed to speak to her as she was so busy, said the day had been “wonderful”.
“Helen said she felt she came from a really strong community. It is very heartwarming to see all those people here today,” she said.
Helen’s return to Penzance started with a surprise party at her parents’ home, where 100 friends and family members were hiding in the garden to greet her and boyfriend Paddy Hogben on Saturday.
Paddy, 28, who met Helen four years ago when she moved to Bath to start rowing training, said the experience since Helen’s win had been “surreal, incredible and shocking”.
“It has been absolutely mad,” he said. “She has become a celebrity overnight.
“She has been to some amazing events, met some amazing people, but throughout it she has been really looking forward to coming home to celebrate with her family and friends.
“The people here have been amazing throughout her journey. They have been right behind her and it is great that she can come back here and celebrate with them.”
Helen’s four brothers and sisters, Ben, 27, Nathan, 26, Ruth, 22, and Freya, 18, all returned to Penzance to celebrate her homecoming this weekend. And they had a double celebration as Helen’s youngest sister Freya picked up four A levels at A and A* this week and was accepted at Oxford to study medicine.
Freya said the family had organised a surprise party for Helen’s return before getting the chance to really speak to her. She said: “Mum and I saw her at the athletics and the last thing she said to mum was, ‘Don’t even tell your friends I’m coming home. I don’t want any fuss’.”
But Ruth said she felt Helen had really enjoyed the party on Saturday, after which the family went down to Wherrytown for a dip in the sea.
“She walked in and everyone was hiding in the back garden. Just 100 people! But she really enjoyed it,” said Ruth.
Ben, a doctor in Winchester, said he felt Helen really appreciated the support she had received from her home town. “I think she feels quite well supported back at home,” he said. “I think she’s been quite looking forward to seeing Penzance again and all the people here.”
The whole Glover family was at Eton Dorney lake to watch Helen’s victory on August 1.
Ruth, a nursery nurse at GEMS Bolitho School in Penzance, said: “It was exciting and very emotional. We were on the edge of our seats. I will always remember her going across the line and being in floods of tears.”
Freya added: “You see the race and get emotional all over again. Even though they led from the start it was still ‘What if something goes wrong?’”
For Helen herself, the win was the pinnacle of her career and the question remains whether she will now continue to Rio de Janeiro 2016.
She said: “My whole life I have looked at the Olympic gold medallists as being at the pinnacle of their sport. Every four years a new Olympic champion is made and I suppose the way to go now is to get another one.
“I have got about three weeks then I need to start rowing again. I am going to start training and if I am enjoying it and if Heather is keen to carry on then we will potentially go on to Rio.”
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