Mums are incredible.
Obviously Dads are awesome too but there’s just that something little bit extra special about the people who physically grow humans inside of them.
Following on from that is the most painful experience known to mankind in order to give us life.
If you then add all of the other things that come with being a new parent – breastfeeding, sleepless nights etc. – it’s completely understandable that becoming a mum can take its toll on the mind and body.
Imagine doing all that and then returning to a profession which demands constant peak physical fitness. Sounds impossible doesn’t it?
Yet there are so many athletes who have not just returned to elite sport but also matched or even eclipsed the levels they were at beforehand.
To me, that commands the highest of respect.
Coming back and succeeding from a serious long-term injury is one thing but to come back after creating a new person and perform even better than before is something else.
Being halfway through an Olympic cycle, 2018 certainly seems to be the year of sporting mums returning to action, with Laura Kenny hitting the headlines last night (Friday 3 August) having won her 11th European track cycling title in Glasgow.
Earlier in the day Dame Sarah Storey also returned to the sport she has dominated for so long by taking Para-cycling World Road Championship gold in the C5 time trial after giving birth to her second child last year.
— Dame Sarah Storey (@DameSarahStorey) August 4, 2018
In addition, later today Australia’s Jodie Kenny will take to the field in front of 10,500 fans for what should be a fantastic 2018 Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup semi-final against The Netherlands just over a year after giving birth to her son Harrison.
And then there is Serena Williams, who already remarkably won the 2017 Australian Open whilst pregnant before reaching the final of Wimbledon in July just months after a difficult birth that could have cost the record-breaking star her life.
While being a professional athlete is in itself just another career, it is very unique in that it is so highly dependent on an individual’s physical state and this is one of the reasons successful post-partum comebacks are so impressive.
Due to the incredible stress and pressure it is put under, the body changes significantly both during and after pregnancy. For some it can be difficult to regain the levels of fitness they had before.
Yet not only have these individuals been able to negate all of these changes, they have come back in just as impressive – if not more so – shape.
Yes ok, that is part of their job and what they are paid to do but for most people it is difficult to keep in decent nick at the best of times, let alone so soon after having given birth. And then to come out and win titles at the very highest level… Frankly, that’s just ridiculous!
Another noticeable characteristic of all the aforementioned athletes is that, to them, sport is just a job and motherhood comes first. In fact, these are pretty much the words used by Storey the day before her she picked up her 24th cycling world title.
They have all recognised that, actually, sport isn’t the be-all-and-end-all and that family comes first, which seems to certainly give them all an added element of maturity over and above what they already possessed before.
This certainly came through when speaking with Jodie Kenny earlier in the World Cup, just months after returning to hockey at the Commonwealth Games held in her home country.
While obviously disappointed to lose to New Zealand in the final, the 30-year-old said that being able to go on a lap of honour with her son around her home stadium was one of the most special things to happen in her career and that she just hoped one day he’d be proud.
— Jodie Kenny (@JodieKenny7) July 28, 2018
Her namesake Laura also showed that motherhood has slightly changed her persona following yet another European victory last night.
One of the reasons we as a nation fell in love with Kenny – aside from her exceptional talent on the bike – was her bubbly, infectious personality that always came across no matter what. Listening and watching any interview with the 26-year-old was always a joy because of her constant smile and proneness to bursts of giggles.
While all of this was still very much evident as she spoke to Jill Douglas last night, there was a more measured approach to her speech, as though becoming a mum has slightly tempered her youthful exuberance, but only by a fraction.
What was clear however was that there is still a deep, burning desire within her to not just repeat her previous performances on the track but better them.
This is something noticeable in all these athletes. Each of them will go down as legends in their own right for what they have already achieved and it would have been totally understandable had they stepped away from sport but, despite recognising their kids now come first, they still want to win.
No-one is this truer for than Williams. There is literally nothing she hasn’t won in tennis and yet, despite having had her life put in danger while giving birth, she still wants to come back and win more. It’s just remarkable.
Combining parenthood and a job is tough for anyone, let alone being a professional athlete. But this is not just what these four athletes – amongst many more – do, they nail it.
They are, in every sense of the word, heroes.