AS the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics edges closer, the British team is filling up. 

Typically, the announcement of the rowing team isn’t necessarily box office viewing but earlier this week, when the 45-strong squad was revealed, it became obvious there is a quite remarkable story in the making. 

Helen Glover has been selected for the women’s pair, incidentally partnering Scotland’s Polly Swann, and is bidding to defend her Olympic title won in Rio. 

Nothing particularly remarkable there, until you realise Glover has had three children in the intervening five years.  

The 34-year-old had no intentions of returning to elite sport after her retirement in the aftermath of her Olympic win in 2016 but the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics gave her enough time to believe she could regain her form and her fitness following the birth of her twins in January of last year. 

In coming back, Glover is just the latest name on what is becoming an increasingly lengthy list of female athletes who, quite rightly, believe it is possible to combine motherhood and elite sport. 

In recent years, there has been a palpable shift in attitudes to women attempting to return to elite sport after having a baby. 

Back in the 90s, things could not have been more different. 

When Liz McColgan, who at that point was an Olympic silver medallist, became pregnant with her daughter, it’s fair to say she received less than widespread support. Three decades on however, progress has been made. 

Having a baby is no longer assumed to be a career-ender.  

The list of mothers who have successfully returned to the top of their sport is growing year on year; the most obvious is Serena Williams but there are perhaps even more impressive examples in other sports

Jamaican sprinter Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce gave birth in the summer of 2017 and since then, has won her fourth world 100m title before just this week running the second fastest 100m by a woman in the sport’s history. 

There is Alysson Felix, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Laura Kenny, Victoria Azarenka and more who have all made successful comebacks in recent years. 

The change in the past decade enabling women to return to sport had been a long time coming. 

There has never been any particular physical barriers to female athletes returning; that has always been a similarly tough but achievable challenge. 

It is the other obstacles that can be so great, they are often insurmountable. 

When Liz McColgan told her sponsor, Nike, she was pregnant in 1990, she was dropped immediately. 

Things may not be quite as brutal these days, but as recently as 2019, Alysson Felix, who has the most medals in Olympic and world championship history, revealed the same company wanted to pay her 70 percent less after having her baby. 

Felix’s revelation highlighted that despite the indisputable fact there had been some progress, it was moving far slower than anyone fighting for equality in sport would like. 

However, there are glimmers of hope.  

Certainly, different sports provide different levels of support but there is an expectation across the board now that female athletes should, if they so choose, be given the opportunity to combine motherhood and top-level sport. 

It is not always as easy; the recent retirement of Eilidh Doyle highlighted that when priorities change, motivation can wane. 

When it is a personal choice to step away though, that is entirely acceptable. When the woman’s hand is forced, that is not. 

If Helen Glover can fulfill her ambition of winning another Olympic medal, this time having combined her preparation with bringing up three children, it will be a remarkable achievement for her personally. 

But her success will also resonate far further than her own household because it will provide yet further evidence that we are getting closer to a world in which combining motherhood and sport is no longer an anomaly. 


There are few athletes more impressive than Laura Muir. 

Over the past few years, the 28-year-old has established herself as one of the very best female middle distance runners in the world. 

European titles, both indoor and outdoor, have been won in recent seasons but a global championships medal has, as yet, proved elusive for Muir. 

An Olympic medal is, of course, the dream. 

The final of the women’s 1500m in Tokyo is now just 47 days away and there is little doubt that Muir is doing everything she can to get onto the podium. 

However, the size of her task was highlighted this week. 

Muir, by dint of bad luck, finds herself competing in one of, if not the strongest and most competitive event in the sport these days. 

The last major global final, the World Championships in 2019, was the fastest race across the board the event has ever seen. Muir was fifth in that race. 

And a few days ago, in Florence, the Perthshire native ran her second fastest time ever; 3 minutes 55.59 seconds. It was a testament to the work she has put in over the past year. 

However, she finished only third, behind Dutchwoman, Sifan Hassan and Kenya's Faith Kipyegon. 

With six weeks until she races in Tokyo, Muir must find an extra few percent if she is to truly challenge for Olympic gold.  

However difficult that will be, it is by no means an impossible task, particularly for someone as tough as Muir. 

And if she does end up on the podium in Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium come the 6th of August, it will be one of the most remarkable achievements ever seen in Scottish sport.