Tuesday, June 26

Raising a champion is no easy feat

Sport is something I love.  Sure I don't play as much as I should but I certainly love watching sport.  All sorts of sports as well.  Be it rugby, AFL, cricket, whatever, I don't mind, I am happy to watch it.  As you can imagine a sporting fan such as myself gets rather excited about the prospect of the upcoming Olympics.

I LOVE the Olympics.  Like seriously love the Olympics and have done since I was just a young child.

I will certainly not be one of those complaining that normal programming has been rescheduled to fit around whatever is happening at the Olympics.  Instead I will be planning my days around what is being shown when and juggling repeats of what I missed with the live action I don't want to miss.  All very technical and requires rather thoughtful planning.

With approximately thirty two days and fifteen hours (at time of writing) to the kick off you can imagine my excitement.  Likewise you can imagine at how chuffed I was when I received an email a few weeks ago asking me if I was interested in chatting with a few Olympic mum's.

Ah...hmmmm.... let me think about that...would it be wrong to respond with a resounding Hell Yeah!


Procter & Gamble (P&G) the company behind brands such as Pantene, Oral-B and Gillette is a Worldwide Olympic Partner and as such have launched a Thank You Mum campaign and enlisted some Mother's of the countries elite athletes to be Mumbassadors.

Last Friday I was able to catch up with Karen Seebohm, mother of champion swimmer Emily Seebohm.  It was one of the loveliest conversations I have had with a stranger for quite some time.  Mind you by the end of it I felt like I was chatting to a fellow mum that I had known for ages.

In the last six years Emily has gone from being relatively new to the sport of swimming to a household name.  As the London Olympics approach she is seen as one of our greatest medal prospects (no pressure though Em!)  Though already having represented her country at world championship competitions, the Commonwealth Games in Delhi and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, pressure is something that Seebohm can take in her stride.
Growing up with two older brothers, and later one younger, being competitive seemed to just be part of Emily's tom boy nature.  According to her mum she was never one to be held back purely because she was a girl.  If anything that just added to her determination.  She always wanted to be out there with the boys doing whatever they did if not better.
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With her father having played some eighteen years with Glenelg football club in the South Australian league and her mum playing representative netball, sports and being active was a big part of the Seebohm way of life.  In the summer, which was the off season they would all be down at the local surf life saving club.

Despite always being around the pool, as her mother was a swimming instructor, Emily was what some would call a late starter when it comes to a career in swimming.  She was a little over 12 when she decided to start swimming competitively.  Within twelve months the head honchos of Australian swimming had approached Seebohm after realising her potential for greatness.  At the tender age of fourteen Emily was swimming for her country and hasn't looked back since.

While her mum says it has been an incredible journey it has not been without sacrifices.  Like 4.20am training sessions, double gym sessions and then returning to the pool for afternoon training.  Which also meant little time for friends outside swimming. There are few teenagers who could understand the dedication and commitment needed to achieve all that Emily has at such a young change.

As a mum of a daughter close to when it all started for Emily, I couldn't help but wonder if my girl would have what it takes to represent her country.  Because you have to admit it that must take a lot.  In fact Karen confirmed for me that it does.  However by the same token it must be a pretty awesome feeling to watch you child represent their country at an elite sporting level.  I mean I burst with pride just watching them down at the local hockey field.  Imagine what it must feel like to listen to the national anthem being played because your child could swim faster than seven others.  Who just happened to be amongst the fastest swimmers in the world.

A.M.A.Z.I.N.G  I tell you, it must just be amazing.

Watching your country's flag being raised in honour of your child's sporting prowess must just leave you breathless.  With all of Emily's successes, Karen is one mum who knows exactly what that feels like.  Sadly however, despite all we spoke of, the awe of it all over come me and I neglected to ask her what it really is like, watching a stadium full of people cheer and applaud as a gold medal is draped around your child's neck.  Since she has been there and done that and all.  And will hopefully be doing it all again over in London in just a few short weeks.

One thing I did think to ask Karen about though was the downsides to raising an Olympic medal winning child.  She then went one to tell me about the constant pressure she felt.  Pressure to make sure  she was eating not just well but in a manner to adequately fuel her body for all it went through.  Because let's face it elite athletes such as Emily Seebohm put their bodies through some pretty grueling tasks.
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Karen also spoke of how she felt constantly on edge making sure that Emily was getting enough sleep.  Reminding her brothers that if they came home late at night (early in the morning) to be mindful of the fact that sleep was a very important part of Emily's training schedule.  Karen even joked how it was not uncommon on a weekend for Emily to be getting up to go to training just as her brothers and their friends would get home from a night out on the town.

I really do admire the commitment that athletes like Seebohm have.  I am not too ashamed to admit I wished I had it.  More so I wish I knew how to instill it in my children.  Even just a little bit.

Perhaps it comes with having the talent?  Not that I want to take away from all the hard work that I know Emily and her mum have done to be where they are now, because I know that hard works plays a very large part in all the success as well.  As Karen so rightly said it was a tough but rewarding job, one that she feels she was given because she was up for the challenge.  I couldn't help but agree.  It certainly takes a special kind of mum to be able to raise a champion like Emily.

It also takes a special kind of mum to raise siblings that are so accepting and supportive of all that needed to be done to help get Emily where she is today.  Family holiday's are no longer to where ever you wish.  Instead they are based around swimming meets and world championships, and of course the Olympics.  Both Emily's parents and her three brothers will be going to watch her swim in London.

The family even moved house and took a larger mortgage so that they were closer to the pool, to make things easier.  While Karen didn't give specifics she did say there were a few other things over the years that the boys went with out because of Emily's swimming.  Karen also spoke of the respite she felt when Emily went away to training camps and meets.  It gave her a chance to focus on the boys a bit more.

As a young woman in sport it is fantastic to see that Emily's management have been able to secure sponsorship from brands such as Pantene and Uncle Tobies.  Karen agreed that it really felt like Emily 'had made it' once this big companies started to show an interest in her.  Given what a wonderful ambassador Emily makes it seems only fitting.  She is an inspiration to young girls the world over.

With Emily and her family due to leave for London in a few short weeks I would like to wish them all the very best.  I know that I will be cheering all the way for Emily as she does her country proud.  After such a lovely chat with her mum I almost feel like I know her.


It's Tuesday and I have blogged, 
so I am joining in with the ever awesome Jess over at Essentially Jess