Helen Glover & Heather Stanning enter Olympics history

Helen Glover and Heather Stanning

Four years ago, Helen Glover was an aspiring hockey player and Heather Stanning was embarking on a career in the army.

But their decision to take up rowing - and winning Olympic gold at their first attempt - has sealed their place in British sporting history.

Glover, 26, and Stanning, 27, took victory in the women's pair at Eton Dorney on Wednesday to win the first gold medal for Britain at London 2012.

More remarkably, they become the first British female rowers to achieve the feat since the sport was added to the Olympics in 1976.

Born in Truro, Glover was a cross-country runner and hockey player, competing internationally, before burying her head in books and gaining a teaching qualification.

It wasn't until she heard about Sporting Giants, a scheme to find the Olympians of the future, in 2008 that she stepped into a boat and picked up an oar for the first time. From there, she was chosen for the Great Britain's rowing talent programme, two years after Stanning joined the same initiative, and two years later the dream team was formed.

Stanning, who was born in Yeovil, took a different route, taking up rowing at 19 after her friends suggested she try it because she was tall. Two years later she was on the rowing talent programme but switched her focus to the army, where she was commissioned in 2008.

Four years ago, she decided to focus on rowing, taking a break from the Royal Artillery, and heading back to the water. There she teamed up with Glover and started on the road to London.

The pair narrowly missed out on gold to New Zealand at last year's World Championships, but that defeat was their last as they upped the stroke rate in 2012 to remain unbeaten in all three World Cups.

They were barely mentioned in the build-up to London as three-time Olympic silver medallist Katherine Grainger and her chase for that elusive gold dominated the headlines along with the men's four - Britain's flagship boat - which has won gold in the last three Olympics.

But an Olympic record in the first race of the regatta sparked interest - and their performance in the final in front of a partisan home crowd - was the perfect way to end what could be their last race together.

Before the regatta, Stanning said she would return to the army, with a posting in Afghanistan a possibility. Regardless of whether she sticks to her decision or decides to add to her medal collection, their achievement will forever be engraved on London 2012 - because everyone remembers the first.

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