Sister hails 'inspirational' Helen Glover after gold medal win


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The Independent Online

Britain's golden girl Helen Glover was hailed as an inspiration by her younger sister today after bringing home Britain's first gold medal of the Olympics.

Glover, a former PE teacher who took up rowing only four years ago, made sporting history as she teamed up with partner Heather Stanning from the other end of the UK for Team GB.

As ecstatic fans were still roaring their approval of British success at Eton Dorney, Glover's sister Freya said: "I just can't describe it, it's too emotional, it's fantastic.

"The expectation, the build-up to this has just been incredible and now for it to actually happen is just, really unbelievable - we're all just so overcome with emotion and so proud of her."

The 18-year-old, wearing a Union Flag top and with the flag printed on her arm, added that her sister only started rowing at the time of the Beijing Games in 2008.

"She'd just started rowing, she wasn't any good yet, and I think she was thinking, 'How am I going to catch up with these girls in just four years?'," she said.

"It's amazing she's managed to do it, it's such an inspiration.

"She's worked so hard, she's such a diligent, hard-working, everything she does.

"She never gives up. If there's a session that's set for her, she will finish it no matter how much she has to put into it. It doesn't matter.

"What you put in, you get out and Helen's just a classic example of that. She's put a massive amount in, but she's obviously getting the rewards here."

Talking about the possibility of future television appearances for her sister, Freya went on: "Helen's got such a fantastic personality and she's got such a sense of humour, that if she did she would be an absolute star.

"She's so much fun to be around.

"You see her as the professional rower, but in our family she's just, she's such good fun, she's always joking. She's really the life of the family.

"You want to be her friend, you want to know her, she's one of those people who is just incredible, an all-round lovely person to be around."

Glover's boyfriend, fitness coach Paddy Hagben, 28, said: "I'm delighted she's been able to show everybody just how good she is. That was absolutely unbelievable.

"Those girls have been absolutely fantastic since they made the British squad, they've hardly put a foot wrong.

"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."

Mr Hagben, who has been going out with Glover for more than four years after meeting at Bath University when she went to train, added: "Helen's fantastic mentally. She's been preparing for this a long time.

"No one told her how to go and win. She's had superb coaching support. Together they worked out how they were going to win an international medal. They did that and so on and so on.

"In that way they worked out exactly how they'd win this and Christ, did they win it."

Mr Hagben, who last saw his girlfriend following her Olympic record-breaking heat, added: "I was really nervous, but also really confident. I know how good she is, I know how hard she's prepared. I know she's mentally tough to take this in her stride.

"I've just tried to be as normal as possible all week and not mention it. If she wants to talk about it, we'll talk about it."

He added the coaches were fantastic and the pair "don't need anything other than normal from us".

Asked about celebrations, Mr Hagben went on: "That's the strangest thing. You plan every moment up to this point, but who knows what happens now.

"She's not wanted to talk about anything after today, this will be odd for her."

Glover, 26, a former PE teacher from Penzance, Cornwall, has been rowing for only four years after her parents saw a newspaper advert for Sir Steve Redgrave's Sporting Giants scheme, set up by UK Sport to identify British sporting talent with a view to London 2012.

She was only paired with Heather Stanning, 27, from Lossiemouth, Moray, three years ago.

Glover's mother Rachel 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 father Jim added the pair "deserve the success they've got", saying he was relieved when they crossed the line first.

"She is very much a newcomer, she's still a novice at rowing."

Asked if he had seen much of his daughter this week, he added: "We're always afraid of too much contact.

"She loves the support of the family and always asks as many of us as possible to come and support her.

"We let her know we're there, but we don't try to contact her too much because that stresses her."

He went on: "She's always been a special talent, I didn't know she was going to be this good.

"Surreal is the exact word. I can't really believe it."

Mr Glover, who said he did not know what his daughter would do next, added "She's a perfectionist and she's given it everything. It's total dedication, total dedication."

Glover's other sister, Ruth, 22, and brothers Nathan, 26, and Benjamin, 27, were also in the crowd at Eton Dorney to see her gold medal triumph.