Melina Robert-Michon in the discus at the IAAF World Championships (© Getty Images)
Olympic silver medallist Melina Robert-Michon has a six-year-old daughter, Elyssa. The experienced French discus thrower talks about the challenge of juggling motherhood with returning to the competitive arena.
Balancing family life
“I always wanted a family. It was important to me, but so was my sport and keeping fit. I continued to train up until I was eight months pregnant – even though after three to four months I stopped throwing and started exercising with no weights.
“After Elyssa was born on 24 August 2010, I restarted training two months later. It was really difficult at first and I remember my first session at the gym my trainer told me to lift the bar without any weight. I tried to lift the bar and I said, ‘it is not possible’. I started to cry and I thought I’d never be able to do it again.
“It was also hard during the early days because of the lack of sleep. It was only at six months when my daughter started sleeping through.
“Thankfully, over time my fitness improved and it became less difficult than I imagined. It was difficult, but I was really lucky to have the support of my husband and my two coaches: Serge Debie and Jerome Simian. Sometimes Elyssa came along to training with me and was just part of my day.
“I returned to competition in 2011 and threw a season’s best of 61.07m. I competed at the European Team Championships but I was not ready to compete at the World Championships, which that year was held in Daegu. It would have meant being away from my daughter for a month and I was not prepared to do that and miss her first birthday.
“To be a mother and to train, I had to very organised and regimented. In fact, I wondered what I did with all my time before having children!
“There was no doubt it was difficult, but having a baby was inspirational. Suddenly sport was not the most thing in my life, but equally it made me appreciate that I still wanted to train and be competitive and it acted as a reminder as to how lucky I am to pursue my passion professionally.
“One of the most challenging elements is the travelling involved with being an athlete and that time being apart from Elyssa. I know it is just part of my life for now and my daughter is used to that. It is normal for her that I am an athlete and that sometimes I am away.”
Steve Landells for the IAAF