My DARK days
Being a mum is way more intense than elite swimming, Libby Trickett tells Naomi White
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.”
Libby Trickett with 14-month-old Poppy; and (inset) in her swimming days.