Balancing Act: Olympian Mothers on Navigating Sport and Family at the Paris Games
Explore the journeys of three Olympian mothers balancing family life at the Paris Olympics

I recently had the pleasure of attending an inspiring luncheon at Melbourne's Hazel, held in celebration of the upcoming Olympic Games. Hosted by Abbey Gelmi, a sports journalist and mother herself, the event featured a panel with three incredible Olympian mothers: Genevieve Gregson (Marathoner), Keesja Gofers (Water Polo Player), and Alyce Wood (Kayaker). All three, who also serve as ambassadors for Bellamy’s Organic, shared their experiences as they prepare for the Paris Olympics.

During the panel, these athletes discussed the unique challenges of balancing motherhood with their rigorous training schedules. They highlighted the support they receive from their families and the close-knit nature of their teams, which often includes their toddlers, bringing a special dynamic to their training environment.

This year, the IOC and the Paris 2024 Organising Committee have made important strides in supporting athlete parents by introducing a nursery within the Olympic and Paralympic Village. This facility is tailored to provide athletes a comforting space to connect with their children, complete with private breastfeeding areas, secure play zones, and diaper-changing facilities. 

While this development is a critical step forward for athletes with young families, it raises the question of what further support the Olympics could offer. Drawing from my own experiences as a mother, I believe the emotional well-being of parent athletes is equally important. Implementing practices that help them mentally and physically recharge between events and schedules could be incredibly beneficial.

Join us in this exclusive Q & A as we explore more about these remarkable women and their journey to the Olympics, where they juggle the demands of elite competition and motherhood.

Genevieve Gregson

Can you tell us about your journey into motherhood and how it intersected with your athletic career? 

I always wanted to be as active as possible when I decided to fall pregnant, however, my circumstance was a little different than I had always imagined. When I ruptured my Achilles tendon at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, I found a window in my normally vigorous schedule to break and breathe and start a family. I did a lot of different forms of exercise while pregnant, but running wasn’t really an option during this phase due to my injury. In saying that, growing my baby boy, Archer, who was born 15th June 2022, while rehabbing a very difficult injury went hand in hand for me because I had always wanted to be a mother and it took away the anxiety and stress of being sidelined from what I love to do. 

How has your experience as a mother influenced your approach to training and competition? 

I think I am mentally stronger in a way because I have a whole new perspective when it comes to my running. I know when to pull back now, which I never used to do, and I know to not get too obsessed with performance. There is so much more to my life than my results now, and I love that I can focus on my baby boy if I am ever disappointed in a race result. 

Will your family take the journey to Paris whilst you compete on the world stage? 

100% - everyone booked before I had even qualified. Very risky or unwavering belief? 

Alyce Wood 

Did you maintain some form of training throughout your pregnancy? 

I trained with our National team in the Kayak until 33 weeks (when I couldn’t physically sit in the boat any longer) and then continued on dry land until the morning I went into labor. I was incredibly lucky to have such a supportive coaching team who worked right throughout my pregnancy to ensure Florence and I were always safe whilst training at an elite level. Florence was born 23rd June 2022. Co-incidentally, she was born on Olympic Day. 

Did you encounter any unique challenges, obstacles or barriers as a mother returning to competition and how did you navigate them?

Balancing the expectations of a being a new Mum and an Athlete has been challenging. On one hand, there are so many social pressures on new mums to feed, change, bathe, nurse and be incredibly present in every moment of their baby’s life. Then on the other hand, I am on a strict timeline in the lead up to Paris, which requires me to be selfish at times and lean heavily on my support network. The guilt pulling me both ways has been real, but it’s also taught me how to prioritise my time and energy. 

Will your family take the journey to Paris whilst you compete on the world stage? 

They sure will! My husband (who himself is a 2-time Olympian) will be there with Florence along with my Mum, Dad, Sister, Brother and their partners. 

Keesja Gofers 

What is your stance on the sporting industry and their support of professional athlete mothers?

There has definitely been headway in this space, but we can do more. If I didn’t have the incredible support of my husband, my mum and dad, and my husband’s parents, this would not be possible for us. 

Logistical challenges include daycare hours that do not align with training hours and that babysitters don’t come with a government subsidy. Basically, everything about how our sport operates doesn’t really work with how childcare is set up. Probably the biggest challenge beyond this, is in order for all the girls to really chase the dream of playing for Australia and being a team capable of winning an Olympic medal, we can’t have full-time jobs, which means getting consistent income is near impossible. For our family, that means on top of having a child, we have to pay our mortgage, babysitters, daycare etc with my ‘return to work’ not providing me a full time salary. This is almost the case in every single Olympic sport - especially for women! 

I also believe it is my responsibility to be visible. Other athletes can see that they can start a family and continue to pursue their athletic goals, if they want to. I am a strong believer in the expression, “if you see it you can be it.” 

What advice can you give to working mums of young children when it comes to the internal tug of war - competing priorities between career and family?

Mum guilt is real. I can only speak to my own experience, but the way I see it is that by doing what I am doing, that my daughter will have a role model that she is proud of when she is old enough to understand what I have done. It really does take a village to raise a child, so I know, when I am not there, that my village of people is doing a great job looking after her and letting her know how loved and cared for she is. 

Will your family take the journey to Paris whilst you compete on the world stage?
Our team hasn’t been selected yet, but if I’m successful, my husband, Scott, our baby, Teleri, my mum, Arlene, my sister, Taniele and her partner, Lasse, will all be coming to cheer me on! I have many other important people back home. Including my husband’s parents who will be looking after our doggo, Magic. I have the best support crew in the whole world.

Image Credit: Wild Romantic Photography & Video Melbourne


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Balancing Act: Olympian Mothers on Navigating Sport and Family at the Paris Games