Helen Glover embarked upon her latest quest for Olympic glory having had an enormous weight lifted from her shoulders.
Glover, who won gold at London 2012 and in Rio four years later alongside Heather Stanning, has returned to rowing after having three children, and the 34-year-old admits motherhood has given her fresh perspective.
She told the PA news agency: “It takes a lot of the weight off your shoulders because I’ve got a new most important job in the world, I’ve got a new perspective on the importance of sport.
“For me, coming into London and Rio, sport was what defined me, my result would define me – I felt, anyway, that my result would define me. Nothing mattered but what I did at the Olympics.
“Now, what I do at the Olympics is a massive bonus. If I get a full day’s training, it’s a massive bonus.”
Glover, who claimed the European women’s pair title with partner Polly Swann in Italy last month four years on from her last taste of competitive action, is bidding to become the first British female rower to win an Olympic medal after having a family when the rescheduled Games take place in Tokyo this summer.
Her marriage to TV presenter Steve Backshall and the arrivals of son Logan, who is three in July, and 15-month-old twins Bo and Kit in the meantime have changed her life immeasurably, but also rekindled her love for sport.
She said: “I just really, really appreciate what I’ve always loved. I’ve just always loved sport and it doesn’t really matter that it’s for the Olympics, it’s for the love of it and that’s what I’ve really re-found now having the children.
“I’ve always said to myself after a training day, I don’t want the children to know whether I’ve had a good day or a bad day on the water.
“I should just be Mum and not be affected by it. I really leave my emotions over rowing at the door, and that’s actually getting the best out of my rowing performance as well.”
Combining family life with the training schedule of an elite athlete has proved gruelling, and remains a work in progress.
“I’m still on this juggling act of every day, trying to work out the best way to make the day work with family and training, who’s teething and who’s tantrumming – and that’s just my crew-mate,” Glover said with a smile.
“I don’t sit down. Our day starts at 5am every morning. Logan has his internal alarm clock which gets him up at 5am, but I actually quite like that.
“I have two and a half hours before I have to leave the house, and I feel like it’s a really nice time with the little ones that I get.”
Glover’s comments came as she helped to launch an 80-day UK trek by adventurer Jamie Ramsay to drum up home support for Team GB with overseas spectators unable to attend the Games in Tokyo.
She said: “As athletes, part of the job of being the best athlete you can be is working with whatever is in front of you and I think people will be so focused on their performance that the crowd won’t worry them.
“But at the same time, there’s just a really big appreciation from all the athletes for all the hard work that has gone into making these Games happen.”
*Find out where and how to get involved in Jamie’s epic journey to drum up support for Team GB at: www.wholeearthfoods.com/teamgb/wholewayjourney/