Army's Olympic gold medallist Heather Stanning is back in khaki
She was the first to win gold for Britain, triggering a summer of Olympic glory that lifted the national mood.
But yesterday, rowing queen Heather Stanning, who won gold with Bath PE teacher Helen Glover, was back to Earth with something of a bump – slogging around a parade ground with a 45lb army backpack on.
The 27-year-old was away from her role with the 32 Regt Royal Artillery for two years to prepare for the Olympics, but has now just completed her first week back in uniform and at the barracks at Larkhill in Wiltshire.
Her colleagues cheered to the rafters of the TV rooms both in Larkhill and in Afghanistan when she won gold, and yesterday her proud fellow soldiers took part in a welcome back celebration ceremony.
It has been something of a reality check for Heather, who said she would put the rowing on hold for a while, but still had her sights set on Rio in four years’ time.
She said: “It is really good to be back here, I am really fortunate that I am able to come back to a working regiment.
“A lot has changed here. The regiment physically looks very different. I have missed working with the other soldiers and the camaraderie there is with the team here.
“I have also missed the day-to-day life of getting on with things. In terms of rowing, I am now back to work but I am going to stay fit.
“I want to do trials for Rio in 2014. It think it is important that I do other things as well as rowing, my fitness has been very specific over the last few years. It will be good to do other things like weight-bearing exercises. Running while wearing kit on your back is very different from rowing.
“I would love to go to Rio but that is not a given because I have to earn my seat. I have to prove myself.”
Heather, who was born in Yeovil, is due to complete a tour of Afghanistan next year.
She said: “The plan is to do a tour of Afghanistan next year. It is really important for my career that I have the experience but we are still working out the finer details. I really enjoy my job but perhaps the one thing I haven’t missed is the paperwork. It is just so nice to have a sense of normality now. This is what I was doing before and life does move on but it is still all there,” she added.
Stanning’s achievements were marked with a limited edition Royal Mail stamp and gold-painted post box in Lossiemouth.
Yeovil councillor Jon Gleeson wants the town to honour Stanning and is hoping to add another lasting honour to the town where she was born by naming a street after her.
Among the Facebook profiles which have “joined” the campaign are those for Yeovil MP David Laws and Somerton and Frome MP David Heath, Yeovil Mayor Phil Chandler and several south Somerset councillors including former district council leader Tim Carroll, Dave Greene and Sam Crabb.