Lesley Townsend: Parent of a gold medallist - Part 2

Lesley Townsend with Susannah

Yesterday, Lesley Townsend, mother of Olympic and European gold medallist Susannah Townsend gave us a nice insight into what it's like being the parent of an elite athlete. Today, she gives us a window into what it was like being out in Rio watching her daughter fight to bring home the gold.

In case you missed it, part one of Lesley's blog is here.

Our Rio experience was surreal. We only took two of the other children; I have 5 children in total, so we just took Harry and Billy. It was difficult to find a large apartment in Rio and it kept the cost down.

For supporters, the Rio Olympics was quite hard work - it took a minimum of two hours to get to the venue and the journey was like getting from Canterbury to Guildford on a Sunday with engineering works and replacement buses. Still, when the team is winning, this doesn’t matter although we were completely shattered most of the time.

I started to get goosebumps after the USA match and suddenly felt the need to have the other children with me. I don’t think people appreciate the sacrifices that brothers and sisters have to make - doing their prep in the back of a car twice a week while their sister trains and having a picnic tea while they do an hour’s drive there and back, so it was important for me to have them with me to share the good times that I felt were going to come.

I dislike the quarter final matches where even if a team comes top of a group, they can still fail to make the semis. For this reason, I had two flights on standby for the next day and had asked Michael and Vicky if they could organise someone to look after the dog and sort things out with work. As soon as the Spain match finished, I confirmed the flights and they were on their way. I didn’t tell Susannah until the morning of the semis when she said on her Whatsapp "That's amazing. I can't believe it. Will make sure we win."

They arrived just in time for the semis and I as I hadn’t told Mark they were coming, it was all very emotional. I was incredibly tearful after the semis as I knew that Susannah would be getting at least a silver or gold medal (and also because my hair was ridiculously frizzy in the humidity!) and we celebrated as a family that night and my husband had his first alcoholic drink in thirty years.

I sat on the beach on my own for an hour on the morning of the final to allow the enormity of what was to come sink in and said to myself that I would be happy with a silver, however, when I was on the train to the match and I saw the hordes of Dutch supporters in their jaffa orange, I suddenly thought that only medal our girls deserved was gold. There's not much I can say about the match that hasn’t been said already. When that goal was scored knew that we would do it.

I didn’t have a role model in sport growing up. My role models I must confess are my daughters and I bring Susannah’s example of hard work through pain and determination into the work place and even the board room. I know it has not always been easy for her but the ability to not take yourself too seriously at times is a gift and character building for the whole family. My other role model must be Vicky for never giving up in that 1500 meter race in front of the whole school and even managing a small sprint at the end of it.

We would like to express our gratitude to Lesley for sharing her experiences with us and to Susannah for her part in winning the gold medal! :-)   

This week is Parents in Sport Week which focuses on how parents can greatly influence a child's experience in sport through their actions. For more information how you can play your part click here.