Helen Glover, the double Olympic rowing champion who came out of retirement last year in a bid to win a third gold medal in what she has described as a “lockdown project that’s gone too far”, insisted there was “more to come” after finishing third in her women’s pair heat with Polly Swann and qualifying for the semi-finals.
Glover made history when she took to the water at the Sea Forest Waterway on Saturday, becoming in the process the first mother to compete for Britain’s Olympic rowing team. The duo finished third behind Australia and the ROC, the Russian Olympic Committee, at the Sea Forest Waterway, and will compete next in the semi-finals on Tuesday.
But elsewhere on the first full morning of Games action in Tokyo there was disappointment for British shooting medal hope Seonaid McIntosh, who crashed out at the qualifying stage in the women’s 10m air rifle, the first medal event of these Games.
Glover, who only returned to training in 2020 and competitive racing in April following almost four years out of the boat after starting a family, admitted it had not been a “perfect” race for her and Swann. The 35-year-old, who won gold in 2012 and 2016 with Heather Stanning, said: “It’s good to progress to the next round, we both know there is more to come as it wasn’t a perfect row but I guess there’s definitely value in learning in the early rounds.
“We are open to what is coming next. We know we have done better in training, it would be more frustrating if we had a perfect row and didn’t have anything to improve on.”
Glover has three young children and revealed after Saturday’s heat that it was her son Logan’s birthday. “He’s three today. So there are so many more important things going on than just racing a heat in Tokyo.
“There’s my little boy at home, we’ll celebrate when I get back. When I think about what they all mean to me, especially on a day like his birthday, everything I do out there on the water is definitely for them. The twins are too young, so they are just toddling around, not knowing what’s going on. Logan sent a video message last night and said he was proud of me.
“A big part of wanting to do this was to bring them along for the journey and I think now they are seeing the fruits of the labour of the ergos [training machine] in the living room and the watt bike in the utility room, and lifting weights between making their dinner. It makes sense a little bit. Putting all that hard work into the journey with them alongside me is key.
“I’ll get Polly to sing happy birthday to him with me later. But especially because Steve [Backshall, Glover’s husband] is home with them, they are fine. They will see mummy on the phone and they are happy.”
There was, meanwhile, considerable frustration for Edinburgh-born shooter McIntosh as she missed out on a place in the final of the first medal event of the Games at the Asaka Shooting Range. The 25-year-old finished 12th of 50 starters in the women’s 10m air rifle, just 1.3 points off a top-eight spot that would have kept her medal chances alive.
No British female shooter has won an Olympic medal, and McIntosh admitted that she “struggled a bit” with the early morning heat during more than an hour of competition. China’s Yang Qian won the Games’ first gold medal, edging out Anastasiia Galashina, representing the Russian Olympic Committee, with Switzerland’s Nina Christen taking bronze.
Elsewhere, Great Britain’s men launched their Tokyo Olympics campaign with a 3-1 victory over South Africa at the Oi Hockey Stadium. The teams were locked 1-1 at half-time but Britain enjoyed a dominant second period and claimed maximum points through goals from Liam Ansell and Jack Waller. Britain face Canada in their next game in Pool B.
It was mixed news for Britain’s boxers on day one, with featherweight Karriss Artingstall enjoying a comfortable opening victory over Keamogetse Kenosi but Peter McGrail eliminated in his first round bout against the Thai veteran Chatchai-Decha Butdee in the corresponding men’s division.
Artingstall, a gunner in the British Army and a bronze medallist at the 2019 World Championships, was given the nod by all five judges in every round, with four scores of 30-27 and one of 30-26, as she eased into the last-16 of the 57kg category . “It’s not my best performance at all, I wouldn’t even rate it over a six (out of 10), but I (have) just done what I had to do,” said Artingstall, who now faces third seed Jucielen Romeu of Brazil.
In the dressage arena, Charlotte Fry admitted her Olympic Games debut “could not have gone much better” as she cruised into the individual dressage final at Tokyo’s Equestrian Park. The 25-year-old, whose late mother Laura rode for Britain in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, topped her qualifying group with Everdale on a personal best grand prix score of 77.096 per cent.
Two riders from each of six groups – plus the next six-best finishers – will contest Wednesday’s individual final. Carl Hester, who at 54 is Team GB’s oldest competitor in Tokyo, finished fourth in Group C aboard En Vogue on 75.124 per cent. He will now have to wait until the end of Sunday’s action to discover whether he has done enough to join Fry in the individual final.
Britain’s double Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin begins her individual and team quest among Sunday’s late starters, who also include Germany’s multiple gold medallist Isabell Werth.