My DARK days

Be­ing a mum is way more in­tense than elite swim­ming, Libby Trick­ett tells Naomi White

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Best Weekend - - NEWS -

T hree years af­ter re­tir­ing from com­pet­i­tive swim­ming, Libby Trick­ett is at the top of her game, as moth­er­hood, new chal­lenges and recog­ni­tion of her im­mense achieve­ments keep her look­ing for­ward. But it hasn’t been easy and Trick­ett has suf­fered some dark times amid the high points. ad­mit­ting that be­ing a mum is more in­tense than be­ing an elite swim­mer.

Last month, the four-time Olympic gold medal­list was in­ducted into the Sports Aus­tralia Hall Of Fame, join­ing its ex­clu­sive ranks along­side the likes of Dawn Fraser, Mur­ray Rose and Susie O’Neill.

“It was one of those things, as an ath­lete, you don’t even think about; it’s not even on your radar. When I got a call about it, I was blown away and to­tally chuffed,” she says.

The high­light of her life since re­tir­ing, she says, is her gor­geous bub Poppy, now aged 14 months. But rather than gloss­ing over the ad­just­ment to moth­er­hood, 31-year-old Trick­ett has been bru­tally hon­est about the dif­fi­cul­ties.

“Eas­ily the most chal­leng­ing (year) of my life,” she wrote on In­sta­gram re­cently.

“The long­est days, even longer nights ... For a while I thought you didn’t love me, and for some very brief, fleet­ing, dark mo­ments I thought I didn’t love you. Now I know it’s ac­tu­ally the very op­po­site that’s true!”

While Trick­ett has rep­re­sented Aus­tralia at the Athens, Bei­jing and Lon­don Olympics, mul­ti­ple world cham­pi­onships and Com­mon­wealth Games be­tween her first na­tional ti­tle in 2003 for break­ing the Aus­tralian 50m freestyle record and re­tir­ing in 2013, she says moth­er­hood is tougher.

“It’s so dif­fer­ent (moth­er­hood com­pared to swim­ming), but in terms of the in­ten­sity of swim­ming com­pared to par­ent­hood, par­ent­hood is the win­ner hands down. It’s non-stop; you don’t have a chance to step away from it, you’re al­ways a par­ent now,” she says.

“With swim­ming, you had the time on week­ends and Wed­nes­day morn­ing sleep-ins. “I’ve for­got­ten what a sleep in is like. But I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as full of love as I have be­ing a mother. See­ing her de­velop and grow is the most in­cred­i­ble thing.” Com­pet­ing, though, has been hard to let go of and she ad­mits it was dif­fi­cult watch­ing the Rio games from her Bris­bane home, her first time as a spec­ta­tor since she was 15. “It might sound re­ally lame, but it’s al­most like a griev­ing process. It was such a huge part of my life, and a love of mine, and I felt like I al­most had to do that to let it go.” Not that Trick­ett has slowed down. She re­cently re­turned to part-time work with global tech com­pany Me­ga­port, which she jug­gles with per­sonal en­deav­ours in health and fit­ness and an am­bas­sador’s role with the Queens­land Govern­ment for men­tal health, a per­sonal pas­sion. “Through ex­pe­ri­ences per­son­ally with fam­ily and through swim­ming and re­tire­ment, as well as be­com­ing a mother, there can be so many chal­lenges in terms of men­tal health. I want to try to help peo­ple feel good in them­selves and as a so­ci­ety we’ve come so far in terms of men­tal health, but we could come fur­ther in terms of break­ing down bar­ri­ers.” There’s still time for fun, though, as Trick­ett helps find Aus­tralia’s messi­est eater in the WeetBix Messy Kids com­pe­ti­tion. She will help judge the 3000-odd en­tries from par­ents whose lit­tle ones have man­aged to cover them­selves — and their home — in the break­fast ce­real, to find the $10,000 win­ner. Trick­ett says Poppy would be the per­fect can­di­date. “If she’s not try­ing to turn over her food, she’s throw­ing bot­tles or climb­ing in dog beds or play­ing in the dog bowl. She def­i­nitely keeps me on my toes.”

Main pic­ture: Tara Croser

Libby Trick­ett with 14-month-old Poppy; and (inset) in her swim­ming days.

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