Afghan duty Stanning ready for boat
Olympic gold medallist Heather Stanning is looking forward to getting back into her boat after a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
The 28-year-old Army officer has been forced to train on rowing machines to keep in shape, but is now focused on getting a place in the team for the 2016 Games.
While many soldiers would be looking forward to a chance to relax and unwind, Captain Stanning is turning her attention to the Team GB rowing trials later this month as she aims to compete in Rio.
Asked what it was like to train in the Afghan desert, she said: "It was pretty hot and dusty, and when the sand storms came up you could really feel the dust in your lungs. It was challenging.
"I was based in Camp Bastion, and there are a few good gyms there so I had the kit to keep fit.
"I've spent an awful lot of time on the rowing machine in the last six months and I'm looking forward to getting back on the water."
The athlete said she was able to keep to a routine because of her shift pattern as a battery operations officer.
Capt Stanning's job was to plan and manage the sorties and tasking of the British Army's "eye-in-the-sky" unmanned aircraft, which provide intelligence for British and Afghan troops on the ground.
She said that while using rowing machines has kept her fit, she is not yet ready for international competition.
However, the athlete believes focusing on something different was good for her overall well-being.
"I think it's healthy for the body and mind to have a break," she said.
Capt Stanning - who has been back in the UK for a little over a week - has still not been back in a boat.
"The plan is to get back to being a full time athlete by the end of the year," she said.
Asked if she missed the water when she was in Helmand Province, she said: "I did. I don't know when I last saw a vast expanse of water."
Capt Stanning made history when she and teammate Helen Glover became the first British female rowers to win an Olympic title.
Following their triumph in the coxless pairs - winning Team GB's first gold medal of London 2012 - Capt Stanning returned to her career with the Royal Artillery.
After intensive pre-deployment training and specialist training working with the Royal Artillery's unmanned air systems - her chosen specialisation - she deployed to Afghanistan in April this year.
Capt Stanning said: "It's nice to be back. I think it was quite successful for us.
"There's a lot of change at the moment, so everything's quite strange but everything went to plan for our battery."
She commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 2008 and took a two-year career break to train for the London Olympics.
Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Peter Wall, said: "The Army is about people who work hard and play hard. Heather Stanning is the ultimate example: Olympic gold last year; on the front line this year. Amazing!"
Earlier this year Capt Stanning, Glover and their trainer, Robin Williams, were presented with MBEs by the Queen in recognition of their Olympic success.