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Come back safely! Glover"s wish as partner Stanning heads out to Afghanistan

Come back safely! Glover's wish as partner Stanning heads out to Afghanistan

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UPDATED:

00:46 GMT, 23 December 2012

The tears flowed when Helen Glover and Heather Stanning won Team GB's first gold medal of the London Olympics.

But it will be emotional for another reason when our first champion women's rowing partnership is forced apart by a different British calling.

Duty calls: Helen Glover resumes training - without friend Heather Stanning

Duty calls: Helen Glover resumes training – without friend Heather Stanning

For Glover is certain her tears will flow again when 27-year-old Stanning sets off for what is intended to be a year's break from the rowing lake to head for Afghanistan and do her duty at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province while serving as a captain in the 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery.

Not only will Glover, 26, be fretting over the welfare of the woman who has become her close friend these past two years, she will also be concerned for the future of the partnership that was to win the London 2012 women's pairs gold.

'Heather is like a sister to me and I'll be worrying until the day she returns,' said Glover in a break during gruelling solo sessions at British rowing HQ at the Pinsent-Redgrave Lake.

Don't mess with her: Captain Heather Stanning off to Afghanistan

Don't mess with her: Captain Heather Stanning off to Afghanistan

'I've never had a family member going away as part of the armed forces on what is potentially a dangerous mission, but this feels like it.

'I'll miss her. I'm very proud of her and I'll probably cry the last time I see her, which will be very soon. I'm sure she'll be fine, of course, but I'll still worry about her and be relieved when she's back home safe.

'I also know that while we're apart for a year, our rivals will be training as pairs. Heather and I want to defend our title at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, but with her unable to practise with me until effectively 2014, we've handed the others a year's head start.'

Striking gold made both women switch plans dramatically.

Golden girls: Glover (left) and Heather Stanning pose with their gold medals

Golden girls: Glover (left) and Heather Stanning pose with their gold medals

Originally, Stanning envisaged London as both the beginning and end of her Olympic career, then it would be back to full-time Army commitments.

Glover, who had started to row only in 2008 after she joined the 'Sporting Giants' programme, could not see beyond 2012.

But after they were paired in 2010, their sights shifted after winning two silver medals in back-to-back world championships.

'Months before the Games, Heather and I talked about her returning to the Army and serving in Afghanistan because we didn't want it to become an issue in the final lead-up,' added Glover.

'She had no intention of carrying on in the sport, but as we got better and started winning medals – and then realising we stood a good chance of winning in London – she told me she was having too much fun to stop.

'I hadn't looked beyond August 1 and the Olympic final, but I realised afterwards that we were still a relatively new pair who could improve and I wanted to defend my title in Rio. So it's decided, assuming our coaches select us as a pair in 2016.'

Which makes 2013 a difficult prospect for Glover, both from a personal and professional viewpoint as she resumes her gruelling training schedule.

Double trouble: Glover (right) and Stanning on their way to victory

Double trouble: Glover (right) and Stanning on their way to victory

She added: 'Unusually for a pair, Heather and I are very close friends who have never fallen out. From a professional point of view I haven't needed to say anything to her about what being away means in terms of our partnership.

'I know she's been questioning herself about it enough. But I know how strong a person she is and how much she believes in what she's doing.

'It's not a decision she's taken lightly. Heather is confident she can spend a year with the Army, train on a rowing machine in Camp Bastion and then resume our partnership a year behind our rivals.

'That's how much she believes in what she is doing and in us as a pair.'

In the meantime, Glover has no idea how her year will pan out, with whom and in what.

Oarsome: Helen Glover and rowing partner Capt Heather Stanning, sporting her gold medal, after their success at London 2012

Oarsome: Helen Glover and rowing partner Capt Heather Stanning, sporting her gold medal, after their success at London 2012

'It's up to [women's chief coach] Paul Thompson to decide what to do with me. I'll have the challenge of a new partner in the pairs and aiming for the 2013 world championships in South Korea. Or I might even be in a different boat.

'It will keep me fresh, but I definitely want to get back with Heather after that, whatever happens.

'When Heather and I were teamed up in 2010, we just clicked. We produced times much faster than we should have and it was all on raw speed, not technique. That's what was so exciting. We knew that with technique we could become so much better.

'To be the first British female rowers ever to win an Olympic gold, the first by Team GB in 2012, was a huge bonus. Whatever else happens in the future, that can never be taken away from us.'

London 2012 Olympics: Steve Redgrave in Aaron Cook row

Taekwondo boss hits out at Redgrave 'bias' in Cook's Olympic row

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 1 June 2012

Sir Steve Redgrave has been accused of trying to influence Olympic selection because of his commercial links to Visa.

The five-time gold medallist, a favourite to light the flame at the opening ceremony next month, was criticised by British Taekwondo for speaking up for Aaron Cook, the fighter they have controversially omitted from their London 2012 team.

Redgrave wrote in his Daily Telegraph column this week: ‘Aaron is the only choice. He should be at 2012 as part of Team GB.’

Waiting game: Aaron Cook (right) has not been selected for the Olympics

Waiting game: Aaron Cook (right) has not been selected for the Olympics

But Gary Hall, British Taekwondo’s performance director, hit back at Britain’s greatest Olympic icon and his fellow rowing knight Sir Matthew Pinsent, who had claimed the sport was playing politics with its selection policy.

Hall said: ‘It is no secret that Pinsent works in the same agency (Professional Sports Group) as Aaron does. And Redgrave works as a Visa ambassador — and they are one of Aaron’s sponsors. I felt that was one-sided and wasn’t considered for the other player in contention.

‘There has been a huge amount of press from one side of the camp. They have a significant media and marketing machine and that potentially has caused the sport some problems.’

The debate revolves around who should be selected for the one place in the -80kg category: Cook or Lutalo Muhammad. Both are European champions, though Muhammad at a heavier weight. Cook is world No 1, with his rival rising from 94th to seventh. The implication from Cook’s supporters is he has been left out because he opted out of the British Taekwondo programme last year and is being penalised.

Chosen one: Lutalo Muhammad

Chosen one: Lutalo Muhammad

Hall is adamant a new rule that scores head shots more heavily favours the taller, more agile Muhammad and that is a key selection factor. He also revealed Cook and Muhammad had fought each other twice with each winning once.

British Taekwondo confirmed they would not appeal against the British Olympic Association’s decision on Thursday not to ratify Muhammad’s selection. The BOA instead ordered them to convene their selection panel for a third time and have insisted on having a legal representative in the room to ensure fair play.

Hall said British Taekwondo were fine with that stipulation but unhappy with some of the BOA’s other requirements — notably the insistence that the head-shot rule should not be given extra weighting.

He said: ‘We are a high-performance business unit that has one mission and that is to get the best set of medals for GB as possible. If the experts deem it is Aaron, he will get the selection. If they deem it is Lutalo, he will get it.

‘There is absolutely no politics whatever. Where is the politics in trying to win medals at major championships This unfairly reported situation has meant Lutalo, who is obviously a talented athlete, getting hate mail.

‘It is one of the sad things. You get selected for the Olympics Games and you don’t get ratified because one party has potentially more media than the other. The character of Lutalo isn’t considered. He is a very level-headed athlete, intelligent individual with some great taekwondo skills. As is Aaron.

‘The shame is that he is coming out as a buffoon in some circles and it is absolutely unrealistic. He is a European champion.’

Hall also addressed the question of
why Cook can be sidelined when he is No 1. He said: ‘We don’t consider
ranking because you can go to lower level tournaments and score points.
Some of his performances were at other events and we don’t value those. I
don’t want to knock his ambition. But to be world No 1 without any
world credential is in some people’s mind not a good thing.

Plenty to ponder: Cook must wait to see if he can realise his Olympic dream

Plenty to ponder: Cook must wait to see if he can realise his Olympic dream

‘People in Korea don’t travel. They compete in Korea and then come to the worlds and blitz the field. It doesn’t matter where your ranking is. Aaron was world No 1 going into the world championships last year and it didn’t go well for him.’ He went out in his first fight, crying.

British Taekwondo appear likely to pick Muhammad for the third time. It is then a case of whether the BOA will accept the selection. After Hall’s explanation it is not inconceivable that they might.

Meanwhile, Sarah Stevenson insists she never doubted for a second that she would make the Olympics — and on Friday she was proved right. The world taekwondo champion injured her cruciate knee ligaments in February but has recovered to make Team GB’s squad for London.

I’m really happy to finally say I’m going,’ Stevenson told Sportsmail. ‘It’s been a while waiting but it’s great now. I never, ever thought I wouldn’t make it. I never doubted it. Why would I I had plenty of time to get back and was world champion. Why wouldn’t I make it’

London 2012 Olympics: Saville rowers! GB crews suit up for their dress rehearsals

Saville rowers! GB crews suit up for their dress rehearsals

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UPDATED:

06:22 GMT, 4 May 2012

The Great Britain rowing squad hailed ‘the world’s best’ by Sir Matthew Pinsent finally gets the chance over the next three days to show why they have such rich potential for glory in this Summer’s Olympics.

While the country has been dazzled by the recent feats of its cyclists the rowers – expected to vie with them as the richest source of home medals at London 2012 – have had to wait until now to show what the fuss is about.

Sitting pretty (right to left): Caroline O'Connor (cox), Dan Ritchie, Vicky Thornley, Cameron Nichol, Jessica Eddie, Greg Searle, Louisa Reeve, James Foad, Natasha Page

Sitting pretty (right to left): Caroline
O'Connor (cox), Dan Ritchie, Vicky Thornley, Cameron Nichol, Jessica Eddie, Greg Searle, Louisa Reeve, James Foad, Natasha Page

National Lottery Logo

A squad of 57 have descended on Belgrade
for the first of three World Cup regattas winding up towards what will
be the biggest moment of their careers, on the lake at Eton Dorney in
three months’ time.

The British crews will be desperate to
make an early statement of intent, particularly the three who begin the
season as most observers’ favourites for gold. They are led by
Britain’s so-called flagship boat, the reshuffled men’s Four of Andy
Triggs-Hodge, Pete Reed, Tom James and Alex Gregory.

The two others seemingly in pole
position are the women’s Double Scull of Katherine Grainger and Anna
Watkins and reigning Olympic champions Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase in
the lightweight men’s Double.

The fields are strong, although in
certain events medal contenders are absent with the Australians and New
Zealanders notably holding themselves back for the remaining two Cups in
Munich and Lucerne.

GB Performance Director David Tanner
is confident that his team can give their rivals a warning of what is to
come: 'I expect us to show strongly in Belgrade,' he said. 'There is a
strong Chinese entry and most of our top European opponents are here,
which means we will get some high class racing.

Dressed to thrill: The team step out of the boat for the Sportsmail cameras

Dressed to thrill: The team step out of the boat for the Sportsmail cameras

We know that we will be the subject of
intense scrutiny going into our home Games but we should remember that
this is a staging post as well as an important event in its own right.
We want to win medals but also learn everything we can about ourselves
and the opposition.'

One of the most anticipated clashes
should be between the GB men’s Eight – reckoned to have gone very
promisingly in Winter training – and their main rivals Germany. The
British crew have been hit by the precautionary withdrawal of 20
year-old Stroke Constantine Louloudis with a back injury, who is
replaced by Nathaniel Reilly O’ Donnell.

That has led to some changes in seat order, with Matt Langridge, imported from the Four, taking over the Stroke duties.

Other medal contenders sure to attract
attention include Northern Ireland’s Alan Campbell in the Single Scull,
and the highly-regarded Heather Stanning and Helen Glover in the
women’s Pair.

Over 1,200 elite British athletes, including the British rowing team, benefit from National Lottery funding, supporting them for London 2012. Lottery players are also investing in London 2012 venues, infrastructure and art and cultural events www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk

Boat Race 2012: Cambridge claim victory after Trenton Oldfield dices with death in Thames

Cambridge claim Boat Race victory after intruder dices with death on the Thames

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UPDATED:

15:32 GMT, 7 April 2012

Cambridge won the 158th Xchanging Boat Race – but a potentially thrilling contest was ruined by an intruder in the River Thames.

Oxford held a slight advantage heading into the final bend when umpire John Garrett called a halt to the race after the swimmer narrowly avoided being hit by the blades from the Dark Blue boat.

The race was eventually restarted at the half-way point after a 31-minute delay.

Narrow escape: The swimmer incredibly dodged the Oxford oars

Narrow escape: The swimmer incredibly dodged the Oxford oars

Close call: The swimmer

Oxford pulled half a length clear when a clash left six man Dr Hanno Wienhausen with a broken oar.
At that point the race was over and Cambridge pulled clear to win.

Umpire Garrett warned Oxford cox Zoe de Toledo to move across just before the clash.

De Toledo argued the wash in the River Thames was too strong for her to move fast enough but her appeal was rejected.

Out of the water: The swimmer is pulled out of the Thames by officials

Out of the water: The swimmer is pulled out of the Thames by officials

Umpire Garrett said his assistant, Sir Matt Pinsent, spotted the swimmer first.

Garrett told BBC Sport: 'There's something in the water. We thought it was debris then we realised it was a swimmer. It was clear he was waiting for the boats so I had to stop the race.

'The rules state clearly that crews have to abide by their accidents, unless one of the crews has caused that accident.

'In the immediate run-up to the clash I was warning Oxford. Cambridge were in the right position so I was content to let the race continue and the result stand.'

Oxford bow man Alex Wood, 27, was carried off the Dark Blue boat and given medical treatment after the finish line.

Walk of shame: The swimmer is taken away by the police

Walk of shame: The swimmer is taken away by the police along Chiswick pier

Pinsent, reporting for the BBC, said after checking on Woods' condition that the stricken rower was conscious but still receiving treatment.

Cambridge's Steve Dudek told BBC Sport after his side's muted celebratory huddle: 'We just thought we should have a little bit of class and keep it low-key. Our best goes out to Alex, our thoughts are with him.'

There had been a classic race in the making before the intruder forced the umpire to call a halt. Television pictures showed him ducking under the Oxford blades.

Oxford had made a powerful start on the Middlesex station and pulled three-quarters of a length clear but Cambridge refused to allow them the advantage of the opening bend.

The Light Blues, who had won the toss and chosen Surrey, had pegged Oxford's lead back to a canvas by Fulham Football Club and they pulled ahead as the river turned in their favour.

Off colour: Oxford bow Dr Alexander Woods was taken unwell following the Boat Race, and received medical attention after team-mate William Zeng attempted to revive him

Off colour: Oxford bow Dr Alexander Woods was taken unwell following the Boat Race, and received medical attention after team-mate William Zeng attempted to revive him

Concern: William Zeng attempts to revive Woods

First aid: Woods receives medical attention

The long middle bend is worth
three-quarters of a length and Cambridge pulled ahead at Hammersmith
Bridge but this time it was Oxford who refused to yield.

The two crews were side by side with a
thrilling finale in store as the river turned back in Oxford's favour
when the race was halted.

Umpire Garrett sent the crews back to
the halfway point but the race was delayed as they waited for the wash
from the support boats to die down.

When it eventually restarted, Oxford began to edge ahead again before the decisive clash of oars.

De Toledo was being warned for Oxford
being too close when Wienhausen's blade was snapped off and Cambridge
eased to a comfortable victory.

After the race, thoughts turned to
Woods in the Oxford boat, who had collapsed after the finish line and
was receiving medical attention.

Too close for comfort: Cambridge (left) and Oxford collide, resulting in a broken blade for Oxford

Too close for comfort: Cambridge (left) and Oxford collide, resulting in a broken blade for Oxford

As a result there was no official presentation.

Cambridge coach Steve Trapmore said: 'It's not the way anyone wants to take away the win. We're more worried
about the Oxford boat right now and we'll reflect later on what's gone
on.

'We've done a lot of preparation for this race, looking at past restarts. I'm very proud of them.'

Cambridge team president David Nelson,
reflecting on the day's dramas, added: 'There was a lot of to-ing and
fro-ing up to the (Chiswick Eyot) island and suddenly there was some
yelling about an obstruction in the water.

'The next thing I know I see a guy's
head between the two boats – and there's 10 or 20 boats following us, so
that guy was in serious strife. With all the hoo-hah, the restart, the clash, it was a pretty dramatic race.'

Sir Steve Redgrave to be given lifetime achievement award

Olympic legend Redgrave to be given lifetime achievement award at Sports Personality

Five-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave will receive the lifetime achievement award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Redgrave won his first gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, and unforgettably won his fifth in Sydney at the 2000 Olympics.

Golden memories: Sir Steve Redgrave celebrates his fifth gold with Tim Foster, James Cracknell and Matthew Pinsent in Sydney

Golden memories: Sir Steve Redgrave celebrates his fifth gold with Tim Foster, James Cracknell and Matthew Pinsent in Sydney

Since retiring from competitive sport, his Steve Redgrave Fund has raised more than 6million for charity, and he played a key role in helping London win the bid to host the Olympics in 2012.

Previous winners of the award include David Beckham (2010), Seve Ballesteros (2009), Sir Bobby Charlton (2008), Sir Bobby Robson (2007), Bjorn Borg (2006), Pele (2005), Sir Ian Botham (2004), Martina Navratilova (2003), George Best (2002) and Sir Alex Ferguson (2001).

The start of it all: Redgrave was part of the coxless four team that won gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics

The start of it all: Redgrave was part of the coxless four team that won gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics