Women's Sports: Eilidh Doyle says Olympic funding takes pressure off following pregnancy

Eilidh Doyle has revealed she is back on Olympic funding for next season and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

The news comes as the 400m athlete hung up her studs in August to have her son who is due in January 2020.

The bronze medallist in the 4x400m event at Rio 2016 said the news of the funding was “massive” for her, having taken time out to have her baby. 

“It gives you the freedom to be a full-time athlete. I don’t have to worry about how am I going to get money, balance training with a job or what if I’m injured, paying for treatment or surgery or rehab every week.

“It just takes those extra pressures off your shoulders,” the 32-year-old said.

Doyle admits, however, that it could be a rush to make it Tokyo 2020, which would be her third Olympics as she previously competed at London 2012 and Rio.

“There will be challenges but we’ve got a plan in place to get back racing again next year. That will all be ‘what ifs’, how the pregnancy goes and what happens when the baby is here, but it is nice to have the security to look ahead. It also helps with motivation and commitment.

“I just don’t want it to mean my career is over because I love competing, training. It’s nice to start a family but not close the door on athletics.

“The way I feel right now is good and the plans are geared towards giving me the best possible chance to come back and be competitive,” she explained.

The news Eilidh Doyle has once again received Olympic funding is especially important considering the ongoing debate in women’s sports about maternity pay.

Allyson Felix of the USA, one of the most decorated athletes in history has made public the way her sponsor Nike treated her when pregnant. She revealed that pregnant athletes like her risk “pay cuts from our sponsors during pregnancy and afterwards”.

Nike has since amended its policy for female athletes.

The debate is also entering more sports, not just athletics. Spain’s female footballers walked out on strike over their player contracts. They asked for more maternity protections alongside a higher minimum wage and holiday pay.

Women in sport are having to fight for their right to have children in an environment where they are often told getting pregnant is the “kiss of death” for their careers.

The news that Eilidh Doyle, however, has returned to Olympic funding is one small sign that pregnant sportswomen are receiving more support than previous examples have shown.

Brands and governing bodies must consider the ways they support the female athletes on their rosters, they must consider to protect and support these women.

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