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A view from the bank

By Lesley Tattersall

Rowing is not a sport about which I had any knowledge.  Now, sitting on a balcony in a bed-and-breakfast outside Bled, Slovenia: venue of the World Rowing Championships 2011, I have to admit, I probably do not know much more.

OG Heather Stanning and Helen GloverAbout commitment, grace, guts, passion, pressure, poise, serenity and sexism I now know a great deal more.  None of these words is particularly trendy or sadly much in use in popular culture.  However, they all feature in the daily life of a female world class rower.

If the conditions are right: your body, the boat, wind, humidity and above all your mental hunger to win, you may row well for about seven minutes and achieve a degree of success.

Heather Stanning and Helen Glover have achieved such a great deal in this sport in such a short space of time, the media it would seem were blinking.

In a sport still dominated by the spectre of Redgrave and Pinsent, deservedly great athletes, the success of this pair would not seem to be newsworthy.

The composure and poise displayed by the pair is exemplary if a little unreal.  In a world where sports men and women enjoy celebrity status we forget what it really takes to be amongst the best in the world.

A dietary regime which would make the most narcissistic amongst us squirm, a training schedule of military precision, but above all these two women share a combined will to win.  Without fuss they spend hours together forging the kind of professional relationship rarely seen in day-to-day life.  They have to be able to communicate in situations of extreme pressure.  Above all, they exhibit a tolerance for the weaknesses and strengths of the other which is simply awesome.

Importantly, both come from families where "doing" is the norm.  They both have siblings and being the centre of attention is not key to their existence.

They are also chalk and cheese.  One is tidy, the other is not.  They dovetail these differences and combined become a formidable team.

Sitting and talking with them both is pure joy.  They are not prima donnas, they are not celebrities, they do not make us mere mortals feel inadequate.

What they are is a pair of world class female athletes.  Heather is also a former Gordonstoun pupil.

2011 World Rowing Championships


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