Olympic wags: Why we deserve a medal too!
Giving up summer holidays, going to weddings alone, spending months apart − even having to hide chocolate… Michelle Davies talks to Team GB Wags about the highs and lows of living with an Olympian
From left: Sian Davies, Eeke Triggs Hode, Tania Farah and Peta Todd have to make Olympian sacrifices when it comes to living with an athlete
Tania Farah, 26, is married to World Champion runner Mo farah, 29, our hope for gold in the 5,000m and 10,000m. They have a daughter, Rhianna, six, and are expecting twins in September. They live in the US
Tania Farah will be in London for the Olympics – hoping she doesn't go into labour in the stadium!
Mo, Tania and Rhianna after his 5,000m world championship win in South Korea, 2011
Our honeymoon in 2010 is a good example of how much Mo’s running dominates our lives. We’d been to Zanzibar and were on our way to London when the volcanic ash cloud grounded us in Nairobi for five days. Mo started to panic – he had a race coming up and hadn’t trained for two weeks. So we agreed he’d drive up to a training camp in the Kenyan mountains a few hours away to train. I made my own way home – and it was five weeks before I saw him again.
But that’s not the longest we’ve been apart. Mo spends at least three months away over winter to train at high altitude. We try to talk on the phone every day, but I do joke about feeling like I’m a single mum sometimes. But I knew what I was getting into. We met at school, where Mo was friends with my brother.
It wasn’t until I was 22 and Mo was 25 that I realised there was more between us.
Living in Portland, Oregon, away from friends and family, has been a sacrifice. We moved last September so Mo could train with one of the world’s leading coaches, Alberto Salazar, and use the facilities at Nike’s headquarters. We didn’t know anyone when we arrived, but have gradually met people in our neighbourhood and through Rhianna’s school.
Though he’s away a lot, Mo does make up for it when he’s here. He takes Rhianna to school and does the household jobs. When he’s off the track, we talk about anything but running. If he ever loses a race, Rhianna and I will take him for a family day out to distract him.
I’m conditioned to eat the same things he does now. There’s nothing fancy, nothing fried; we eat a lot of vegetables. If I have chocolate, I have to hide it from Mo on his coach’s orders. I’ve never met anyone who can eat as many sweets as he can, but too much sugar isn’t good for him.
Deciding what to do about the Olympics has been difficult. We wanted the twins to be born in the States so they’d have dual nationality, but there’s no question of me missing the Games as he needs me for support, so I’ll miss the pregnancy cut-off date to fly back to the US. I’ll be in London now until after they’re born. I just hope I don’t go into labour in the Olympic Stadium while he’s competing.
At least I know this state of affairs won’t be for ever – all athletes have a shelf life. He’ll be in my way a lot more when he quits, so I should probably appreciate the time we have apart now!
Eeke Triggs Hodge, 29, a trainee surgeon, is married to rower Andy Triggs Hodge, 33, who is aiming to repeat his gold medal success at Beijing 2008 in the coxless four. They live in Oxford
Eeke Triggs-Hodge got two nights in a hotel for her honeymoon – then Andy had to get back to training
Andy gives a thumbs-up after winning Men’s Pairs during the Team GB trials in March
Andy rows seven days a week. He gets one Sunday off in six, but that’s it. He even rowed on our wedding day. We got married at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in December 2010, five months after we got engaged.
Most rowers marry in September, because it’s the only time of year they get a three-week break, but I saw the venue and thought it would be amazing for a winter wedding. Luckily Andy agreed, but he couldn’t miss a training session so had to be up early to get out on the water. I’m still waiting for our honeymoon – we had two nights in a hotel in Devon and that was it. Even over Christmas he’s got a schedule he must keep to.
I’m used to our life fitting around rowing. I competed for Holland – Andy and I met on a training camp in Seville in 2006 – so I know exactly what’s involved. When we met, I would row on Saturday morning, then get on a plane and fly to the UK to see him, then on Sunday we’d both train. It was tough; we only saw each other once every four weeks at first. I quit rowing in 2007 to concentrate on my surgery career.
Other women probably wouldn’t be as understanding about Andy’s commitments.
It would be nice to go away for a weekend, or book a holiday in June. But every time I think, ‘We could be doing that’, I remind myself that it’s not for ever. I also try to fit my work around Andy’s schedule – getting my weekend and night shifts to coincide with when he’s away otherwise I end up exhausted.
Andy is just as supportive of me, though. My work is intense and the hours are long; I recently sat my biggest exam, for which I had to revise for months. He’d get back from training at the Olympic centre in Caversham in Berkshire late afternoon, but I’d still have to work.
It’s really important that I have my own life. I often go out for drinks with partners of other rowers and we all agree that sometimes it’s nice when our lives aren’t revolving around theirs.
Andy and I are not ready for children, but I’ve got respect for the rowers and their partners who do and the way they manage.I’ve got a week off work to watch Andy in the Olympics.
My colleagues tease me about being an Olympic Wag. If work allows, I’m hoping I’ll be able to attend the celebrations afterwards. There are always amazing sponsors’ parties and the winners’ parade. I was there when he got his MBE at the Palace – it was amazing. It makes up for what we miss out on.
Peta Todd, 25, a glamour model turned TV presenter, is the partner of world road race champion cyclist Mark Cavendish, 27. They have a four-month-old daughter, Delilah, and Peta’s son Finnbar, six
Peta Todd says her life is definitely not 'normal', and that Mark is a bit of an obsessive
Mark after a scratch race win last November at Manchester’s velodrome
When Delilah was five days old, we left our home in Essex to stay with friends in Manchester, so Mark could train on hilly ground.I said to him, ‘I don’t think you quite realise that normal people don’t do this after having a baby.’ But our life is definitely not what most people’s idea of normal is.
I had no idea who he was when we met at a charity event in Los Angeles two years ago, but I soon realised how intense his schedule is. He has two weeks off a year and a couple of days here and there for recovery after big races – for which he can be away for a month at a time. When he’s not competing, he’s out cycling every day for between three and six hours. He has to mountain-train too, so we split our time between the Isle of Man (where Mark’s from) and Italy. Finnbar’s in school so it’s a bit of a balancing act all round.
People talk about athletes and footballers being banned from having sex, but that’s not the case. As Mark says, they know their own bodies and know what will leave them shattered. Delilah was conceived during the Tour de France; she was planned.
Even though this is a massive year with the Olympics, we knew if we put off having a baby now, something else would stop us later on. We looked at Mark’s schedule and he didn’t want us to have her in the middle of the season because then he’d miss her birthday every year. Luckily the timing was perfect and she was born just two days into his time off.
Like a lot of athletes, Mark can be obsessive about things. When we first started living together, Finnbar would mix up all his different Lego sets into one box and Mark had to separate it.
When we moved, I decided to organise the storage room for his kit as a surprise and bought a labelling machine to mark everything up. I thought he’d be impressed, but all he said was I’d put some of the labels on wrong.
Mark’s always healthy, but at the moment he’s got a nutritionist overseeing his diet before the Olympics and has cut out sugar. I have to keep temptation out of his way and make what he needs to eat as enjoyable as possible. So we eat a lot of sushi. Luckily, neither of us drinks.Mark has said in interviews he’s lucky that I put up with what he does. But it’s not a one-way street. I’m lucky he understands I want to work as well as be a mum.
I couldn’t physically put myself through what Mark does. Compared to that, it’s not a medal I deserve but maybe a pat on the back every now and then.
Sian Davies, 27, a primary school teacher, is the girlfriend of world champion hurdler and gold medal hopeful Dai Greene, 26. They live in Bath with their dog, a hungarian vizsla called Buzz
Sian Davies makes sure that Dai does his share of the household chores
Dai during the 400m hurdles heats in South Korea last year. He went on to win gold
From the start of our relationship, Dai’s training– six days a week, four hours a day – has always come first. When we met at university, where we were both hurdlers, our first date had to be arranged around his only day off.
Last September, we moved in together and it’s nice to be able to see him every day now. Dai’s good at doing his share of the housework, so I don’t have to wash his kit – but he does leave piles of trainers by the front door. That’s how you can tell an athlete lives here – that and all the healthy food.
Dai is on a strict regime as far as his diet goes, which is great for me as it keeps me slim
– although there are only so many ways you can eat chicken and steamed vegetables. A big night out means going for a meal (I don’t drink and Dai does only rarely) and even then we have to think about staying healthy.
His early bedtime – he’s usually tucked up by 10pm – can be a bit of a problem because I’m a night owl. I’ve got really good at creeping into the bedroom without making a sound. I can’t disturb his sleep as he was diagnosed with epilepsy at 17 and is more at risk of having a seizure if he’s exhausted. At the moment, I’m working as a supply teacher, so when I’m not working I go training with Dai in the morning at Bath University. I still compete, but nowhere near his level.
Dai’s away a lot competing so I’ve had to get used to my own company. Even for occasions such as a friend’s wedding, I’ll go alone as Dai would only have to leave early for training. Some of my friends and even a few of my cousins haven’t met him yet, even though we have been together for six years.
My teacher’s salary doesn’t always allow me to see him compete.
I couldn’t afford to fly out to the World Championships in South Korea last year and almost missed seeing him win gold, because I was so nervous that I was hiding in the hallway at my parents’ house! I’ve been to other events where I’ve stayed a week and only seen him for two hours the entire time. It can be really difficult when he loses – so I let him have his space.
We’re trying to block the Olympics out of our minds until it happens; it’s just too daunting. I got my tickets for the hurdles final in the lottery. I pity whoever’s sitting next to me in the stadium when Dai races; I’ll be a nervous wreck.