Women In Sport: We Caught Up With Four-Time Olympic Medallist Rebecca Adlington
An inspiration and a role model.
It’s not every day you get to interview a two-time Olympic gold medallist, so when we were given the chance to chat to Rebecca Adlington, we jumped at it.
The talented swimmer won two gold medals at the 2008 Games in Beijing, to become Britain’s first Olympic swimmer to win two gold medals since 1908, and later received an OBE from the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
Now retired and mother to her new baby Summer, we caught up with Rebecca to hear all about the highs and lows of both competitive swimming and motherhood.
Looking back on a glittering career, she began by explaining to us how it all started.
“I saw it as a hobby at first. I was doing the thing that I loved. I worked really, really hard and wanted to do well and achieve in.
“I went around it in an opposite way: most people go to the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships and kind of build up to the Olympics, but I went in straight to the Olympics which is why a lot of people saw me as a nobody who all of a sudden became ‘somebody’."
Rebecca gets a massive welcome home in August 2008
“It was a bit weird for me as I said, as I came straight on the scene. Most people build up their name, but I did it the wrong way around.
“Throughout it all, what drove me on was the fact that I’ve such a passion for the sport, a love for it.
“The biggest challenge I faced was probably the after Beijing really. I went from being nobody to somebody, and I was a 19-year-old girl who was thrust in front of the world, so that was difficult.
“That was the start of a four-year cycle to the home Games, [London 2012, where she won two bronze medals]."
“The period from 2008 to 2009 was definitely the most challenging – I look back and I think ‘Wow how did I do that?’” she laughed.
“In the end though, it’s about working hard and doing something that you love and that’s the way it’s been for me since I was a young girl.
“There was athlete me and then there was also normal Becky. Things were a bit different then, but now we are lucky as there are so many fantastic female role models."
The hard work paid off.
"Now, it’s not a case that you have to be a tomboy just because you do sport,” she reflected, adding that she is currently the UK ambassador for Lil-Lets ‘Let’s Talk’ campaign which helps to educate young girls and help them to chat openly about periods, body changes, boys and all things that being a teenager involves.
“It’s been fantastic working on that campaign. When I was 14, we didn’t really talk about these issues. It’s been so nice to talk to teenage girls and tell them what I went through and help them out.”
She retired from elite swimming in 2013 and went on to kick-start a new initiative, SwimStars, which aims to have every child in Britain able to swim 25 metres by the time they leave primary school.
She retired in 2013.
“Retirement wasn’t something that just happened. I didn’t wake up one morning and I say ‘I’m done’. I always knew it was going to be my last Olympics [London]. I knew Rio wasn’t a possibility for me.
“It was the home Commonwealth Games in Glasgow - that was the one that pulled at my heart, the one I wondered should I carry on until then.
“Normally we take a two three week break in the summer, and I had started SwimStars after the London Games.
“Despite the break though, suddenly, I didn’t want to get back in the pool. That spoke a lot for me."
Pictured during London 2012.
"I always thought I’d never find something I’d love as much as swimming, and that had always been the fear about retiring.
“But then I found this [SwimStars], it’s something I love just as much so I like to think of it as just moving departments.”
Indeed 2015 has been a big year for her as she welcomed baby Summer with husband Harry Needs and she revealed that motherhood can be just as challenging as competitive sport, but that the rewards are worth every second.
“We joke now that we are as tired now as we were when we were training. Motherhood is completely life-changing, the Olympics was life-changing and having a child is life-changing."
“You have a little human being and you just want to take care of them and love them and give them everything you can.
“It has been tough, the lack of sleep of course and we’re always finding new challenges, but just like sport, you go through them and rise to them.
“For me, motherhood is definitely more rewarding. Seeing her face every single day and having so much love for her is simply amazing,” she finished.
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