OLYMPIC pairs rowing champion Helen Glover has described her Old Monmothian coach as ‘the best in the world’ as she defends her world title in Amsterdam this weekend.
Former Monmouth School pupil Robin Williams spent the winter fighting cancer and was only given the all clear to return to coaching full time during last month’s Henley Royal Regatta. And 29-year-old Cardiff Metropolitan graduate Glover said the return to good health of the 54-year-old former Cambridge Boat Race chief was a massive boost to her and London 2012 partner Heather Stanning ahead of the world championships. Glover won the world title with Polly Swann in Korea last year while army officer Stanning spent a year on duty in Afghanistan, and is unbeaten in the pair since 2011’s world championships where she won silver with her Olympic partner. They cruised to a huge seven second victory in yesterday’s (Thurs) semi-final from Romania and will be hot favourites in Saturday’s medal race off, where second semi-final winners America look the main challengers. And Glover said of Old Monmothian Williams, who underwent a major operation in the winter: “He’s the world’s best coach… look at his record, Olympic and world titles, seven Cambridge Boat Race wins, he’s incredible. “He took us on a few months before the 2010 worlds when we were really raw and transformed us into world silver medallists. He was the reason we won Olympic gold, so losing him in the winter was a huge setback. “But much more than that, he’s family, and we were really worried for him. I think we were aware that if we weren’t performing well, that was extra pressure for Robin, so from that point of view, it drove us on to perform for him, not to let him down when he was struggling. It was motivational, though hard emotionally. “It was tough knowing what Robin was going through. You can get in an Olympic gold medal bubble and it gave us some perspective on life. “But even though he was facing such challenges, he wanted to make sure we continued progressing in the pair and was concerned for us. The bonds between us are so strong, it’s just like family. “You put your professional head on and you have to continue. But it’s been a massive relief that he’s been given all the clear and a huge boost to us. “After a tough year, it feels like we’re back to normal, the three of us all on board together again. Heather has returned from Afghanistan, Robin is well again and we’re firing on all cylinders, and it feels really good two years out from Rio,” she added. “Obviously, Rio is the focus, with such challenges as the worlds on the way, so we can’t keep dwelling on London 2012. “But it’s great to have it in the back pocket, to remember how we got to be Olympic champions. It’s a great foundation, and now with Robin back, we can get even better.” Glover said given Old Monmothian Williams’ health problems, knowing whether she would be racing with Swann or Stanning was the least of her worries, though she has been back with Stanning since winning the European title with Swann at the start of June. “The transition with Heather was pretty seamless,” she said. “The first time we rowed together, it was like we’d never been away. We beat the top four US boats at the World Cup in France then dominated in Lucerne, it’s been going like a dream and hopefully we can now retain the world title.”