Polly Swann is intent on supplying a fairy tale finish to her improbable reunion with Helen Glover as the duo prepare to return to Olympic action in the women’s pair heats at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo on Saturday.
In the after-glow of Rio 2016 the chances of the duo reprising the relationship that had swept them to a world title in 2013 appeared non-existent as Glover retired to start a family and Swann elected to take time away from the sport to finish her medical degree.
But an unlikely series of events, underpinned by the pair’s mutual conviction that they were not done with the Olympic arena, would ultimately bring them back together in the women’s pair where they will be among the favourites as they begin their quest for gold.
“It will be incredibly hard. Our competitors are unbelievable athletes. Our event is stacked but there is just something special about our team. We are getting better every day and with the determination and passion that we have got, anything is possible.”
A back injury scuppered Swann’s hopes of appearing at her home Olympics in London in 2012, where Glover teamed with Heather Stanning to claim the first of what would be two consecutive gold medals.
For all Swann’s nagging desire to get back in a boat, she concedes her subsequent exposure to the seriousness of the virus have instilled her not only with a valuable sense of perspective ahead of her second Olympic appearance, but a desire to get back to continue the job.
“I was there (in hospital) for four months,” said Swann, who almost immediately rekindled her successful relationship with Glover when the pair swept to the European title in April in their first competition together for five years.
“To start off there was this real eerie quietness. A lot didn’t come in because they were concerned of imposing on doctors, so there were lots of cases of Covid and no-one in hospital.
“Then as things built that completely changed and we became one really solid team. It was like being in performance sport; all working together for a fantastic performance. It gave me a huge sense of pride.
“I was a tiny cog in a huge machine. I wasn’t in ICU ventilating Covid patients but nevertheless I was so proud I could fulfil my role. I can’t wait to go back in August and start working again because we are very privileged to have an NHS.
“In hospital you’re dealing with life and death. Coming back into performance sport just made me realise just how lucky we are.”