Kamloops mountain biker prepares for Olympics just months into motherhood

·2 min read
Olympic mountain biker Catharine Pendral is back competing only months after giving birth to her first child. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images - image credit)
Olympic mountain biker Catharine Pendral is back competing only months after giving birth to her first child. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images - image credit)

Canadian mountain biker Catharine Pendral is preparing for the Olympics just months after giving birth to a baby girl.

The three-time Olympian from Kamloops, B.C., won a bronze medal in the women's cross country mountain bike race at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, and was training for Tokyo 2020 when the pandemic hit.

Pendral says that after the Olympics were postponed, she and her husband Keith Wilson decided they wanted to start a family.

"I'm 40 and deciding whether I wanted to put other parts of my life on hold for the potential that there could be an Olympics, which wasn't guaranteed," she told host Sarah Penton on CBC's Radio West.

Daughter Dara was born in January, and Pendral says motherhood has been a "big learning curve but a lot of fun."

She says she was able to continue training throughout her pregnancy and keep a high base level of fitness, and started training again just weeks after Dara was born.

She says she was philosophical over whether she could regain her former performance.

Pendral, pictured with her daughter Dara, says motherhood has been a 'big learning curve but a lot of fun.'
Pendral, pictured with her daughter Dara, says motherhood has been a 'big learning curve but a lot of fun.'(Catharine Pendral/Instagram)

"If I was still able to try to compete to get to Tokyo, then I would. But if it just wasn't in the cards, it wouldn't be in the cards," she said.

"But things have gone really well ... The progress has been so rapid and really rewarding and [it's] pretty neat to be competing and training with such a fresh perspective."

Balancing motherhood and being an athlete

Pendral says it's important that professional sports support women who want to start families and give them the opportunity to continue competing afterwards.

"There are lots of changes happening around pregnancy and women in sport. I know tennis and triathlon, at least in the U.S., they have frozen rankings for women that are pregnant," she said. "Which is really progressive and really encouraging to see."

Pendral and her family are all currently in Austria, where she is competing in the first two events of the World Cup qualifiers for the postponed Olympics, which are set to run from July 23 to Aug. 8.

She says she is very hopeful that the Olympics will still take place this year, despite the pandemic, and is excited for the potential to compete.

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