London 2012 Olympics: Scotland’s glory girl jumps out of the water and into the fire as Afghanistan looms
HEATHER Stanning was no sooner out of the water at Eton Dorney yesterday when her commanding officer in the Royal Artillery announced to the world that the heroic gold medal winner, and army captain, will soon be swapping the Olympic podium for Helmand province.
Lieutenant Colonel Craig Palmer was speaking on behalf of all of Stanning’s colleagues in the forces when he said he looked forward to welcoming her back to the fold in September. “We are delighted with Heather’s win today. I wish to congratulate Heather and Helen on their success; it was an excellent achievement,” he said.
“Soldiers from 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery were thrilled to watch the race from their bases in Afghanistan, while their friends and families watched it here in the UK. I am sure that they have been inspired by her performance and we look forward to welcoming her back to the Regiment later this year. I know that she is keen to deploy with her soldiers to Helmand in 2013.”
The Ministry of Defence confirmed last night that Stanning is due to be deployed to Afghanistan next year. She later dedicated her gold medal to her fellow troops, particularly those who are currently serving in Afghanistan or have served there in the past, among them both of her older brothers. “Thanks for all the support in Afghanistan. I’m so proud to be associated with you,” she said.
Stanning didn’t just win a gold medal yesterday, she fulfilled a prophecy. Pages from her yearbook at Gordonstoun have been doing the rounds on Facebook this week, pages that show that in her last days at school she was picked out from all others and described as the girl most likely to win an Olympic gold medal. Yesterday, in spectacular style, the prediction came true.
“I don’t know how they came up with that,” laughed Stanning who was part of the same Gordonstoun boarding house as Zara Phillips, albeit five years her junior. “At school I played a lot of different sports. I was the jack of all trades and the master of none.”
Make that mistress of one. As Andy Hunt, chef de mission of Team GB, said of Britain’s gold medallists: “Heather Stanning and Helen Glover have written their very own unique and wonderful chapters in the storied history of British Olympic sport. To become the first British Gold medallists in women’s rowing is an accomplishment that will stand the test of time.”
In the wake of a gold medal that kick-started these Games for Team GB , Stanning and Glover were love-bombed by sport stars, music icons, celebrities, politicians on Twitter, Jenson Button, Tom Daley and the London mayor, Boris Johnson, among them.
The sisters also weighed-in in force - Colleen Rooney, admitting to feeling emotional, Kimberley Walsh, of Girls Aloud, articulated the feelings of the nation by simply saying ‘Love it!’ with the singing phenomenon, Adele, who knows a thing or two about making records, also offered her congratulations. Twitter was full of such messages from the great and the good.
Stanning said rather poignantly that herself and Glover were just “two people in a boat who wanted to make the most of each other” while adding that what she wanted to do now was return home to Lossiemouth to be with the people who helped her along the way.
“The support from back home has been fantastic,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to going home in a few weeks because I only get to spend time in Lossiemouth at Christmas and a few days here and there during the year. I still have quite a few school friends in the area and I love it there. You can really get away from everything. My old headmaster was here and a few old pals, who know nothing about rowing. I can’t wait to see them.”
Her tribute to the troops was clearly heartfelt. “They’ve been fantastic,” she said of the forces who were drafted in to plug the hole in the security operation. “A couple of the guys even recognised me as they are fellow officers who were also cadets at Sandhurst. The army personnel have done a great job here. I see them every morning and they have been so friendly, I can’t thank them enough for all they have done.”
By dint of their unbeaten run this year – and a finishing time in their heat that broke the Olympic record and would, most probably, have convinced the elite pairs from Australia, New Zealand and Germany that they were rowing for the minor medals – they started as overwhelming favourites.
Heroes both. And at the end, how did they celebrate? “I whacked her face when I leaned back after we crossed the line and knocked her sunglasses off,” said Stanning of her history-making mate. “Now they’re lying at the bottom of the lake.”
The eye-wear might be gone, but the gold is where it should be. Around their neck - a reminder for life of a day of days.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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