Matt Butler: The hurdles of trying to mix motherhood and medals

View From The Sofa: Pregnancy in Sport  Radio 5 Live

One of the best things about watching or listening to sport is witnessing something that most of us find impossible to do. If you aren’t convinced, just Google image search Laird Hamilton’s name and see if your jaw doesn’t drop.

But you don’t have to be a carved-from-granite Hawaiian surfer like Hamilton to inspire awe. Take Usain Bolt, who does something that is innate in all of us: running. He makes people stand up and cheer simply because he does it so darn fast. After all, he is in a select group of people who can run 100 metres in less than 10 seconds. He spent an hour on BBC Radio 5 Live with Mark Pougatch last week and gave a good impression of being a laconic, if very polite, normal young man. He said “cool” a lot when faced with fluffy questions such as what he would miss if he was on a desert island (water, food, PlayStation and a TV, for the record) and talked of the unfulfilled desire, owing to his fame, to “get crazy” with his friends.

But the best thing about being the fastest man in the world? “I get to do cool things, I can watch Manchester United when I like, or go to the Formula One. It’s pretty cool.” Ah, to be him.

Some sportspeople are in an even more select group: those who can not only ride, run or play a game better than the rest of us, but can also make humans. Now this column isn’t going to get all touchy-feely on you, but there is no denying that most of us are unable to do what Paula Radcliffe (below) can on two fronts: one, running five-minute miles round the block, let alone for a marathon, is pretty tough; and two, she has had two children, which is impossible for a good 50 per cent of us.

But the ability to have children while being a world-beater has its own complications, as we heard straight after Bolt’s star turn on 5 Live. Eleanor Oldroyd hosted Pregnancy in Sport, along with the former sprinter Katharine Merry, Arran Brindle, fresh from helping England win the Ashes, and Gail Emms, the Olympic silver medal-winning badminton player.

It was clear from the outset the obvious complications of having a child while trying to remain at the top of your sport.

Merry was the first to say it is nigh on impossible to consider parenthood until you have done what you want to achieve in your chosen activity.

Brindle, who returned to cricket after having her son Harry, begged to differ. But, she pointed out, it is different being involved with a team – and the England & Wales Cricket Board has been instrumental in giving her support.

Things got stark when Tasha Danvers was interviewed. Danvers, the former hurdler, got pregnant in the run-up to the 2004 Athens Olympics. And she was left with a tough decision: does she terminate the pregnancy, or have the baby and hope there will be another chance at Olympic glory? She chose the latter, at the last minute, having driven to the abortion clinic – and won bronze four years later – but Merry pointed out the choice would be agonisingly hard.

“I really don’t know what I would have done. Looking back, it is easy to say, ‘Yes, nothing would have got in the way of that dream’, but as a mother it is impossible to say,” Merry said.

The show was thought-provoking – if a little gory, when Dame Sarah Storey, the paralympic cyclist, gave us a blow-by-blow account of her Caesarean birth – but, like the best sports shows, it gave the other half of the population an insight into something truly impossible.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

CRM Data Analyst – Part time – Permanent – Surrey – Circa £28,000 pro rata

£15000 - £16800 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Mechanical Design Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A key client in the East Midlands are re...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£21000 - £31000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The JobWe are looking ...

Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The Job...Due to continued ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice