TERESA PORTELA, CANOEIST

"Being a mum has made me a much stronger athlete"

#sport #women #gender equality

Canoeist Teresa Portela has been world champion twice and European champion seven times. She almost gave up her sports career when she decided to become a mother after the London Olympics. Today she is just a step away from becoming the woman with most Olympic Games under her belt.

HEAR TERESA PORTELA'S STORY

Teresa Portela, canoeist: "It is the question that always springs to mind. You think: "Goodness me! Will I ever be competitive again?"

"What I was most concerned about was my physical fitness level, not being as fit as before, building up the muscle again, feeling good again physically..."

"I completely lost control emotionally. All I wanted was to be with my daughter. She seemed so new, so small, and emotionally, somehow, I suffered a lot."

"You end up crying because all of a sudden you realise you are not where you were, being fit and strong feels a long way away. So there were bad days, grey days. But, as always, there's a silver lining."

"After the London Olympics I wanted to be a mum and I wasn't willing to put it off any longer. First, I thought I wouldn't continue with my sports career, it seemed too difficult, but in the end everything's possible. If you are eager and you really want it, you can continue your sports career."

"Balancing both things is difficult. Because it is hard enough working and being an elite athlete, which means not just working to schedule, training, but also then making sure that you get enough rest, since rest is essential for an athlete to perform well and be at their best the next day."

"I don't think being a mum has changed me as an athlete. In fact, I think it has made me better, stronger."

"The hardest part, mentally, especially when she was very little, was being away from my little girl to get my training done, as at the end of the day that's my job. That's what was hardest for me. But on a physical level... Quite the opposite, I feel better than I did before."

"I came third in the world championships 17 months after Naira was born. I won the bronze, but to me it was like winning gold, or, more than gold, diamond."

"Months before it had seemed unthinkable, I had so many doubts, I didn't know whether I'd be able to do it."

"I had faith in myself and I strongly believe that if you work at it, with hard work and consistency you can achieve anything."

"My strength comes from being able to be with her, enjoy her, and I have to try and keep up with her. If I can keep up with my training, then I can keep up with her."

"Look Naira, do you know what your mummy does? What's mummy's job?"

Naira, Teresa's daughter: "She's a canoeist."

Teresa Portela: "She's a canoeist, an athlete. Yes or no? Yes!"

"I wouldn't change these moments for a medal or anything else. Being with my daughter is the most precious thing."

"I am aware that if I classify for these Olympics I will be the woman that has participated in most Olympic Games. If I get to six, and I make history, just imagine!, it would be truly incredible."