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Chemmy Alcott: 'I am happy to admit that I have found motherhood is much tougher than skiing'

Former world champion racer Chemmy Alcott talks to Gabrielle Fagan on being honest about parenting on her podcasts and how she still misses competitive skiing

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Chemmy Alcott

Chemmy Alcott

PA

Chemmy Alcott with husband Dougie Crawford

Chemmy Alcott with husband Dougie Crawford

PA

Chemmy Alcott

As the UK's most famous female skier, Chemmy Alcott - who competed in four Winter Olympics and is Britain's most successful female World Cup alpine racer - knows a thing or two about facing challenges.

She spent 20 years hurtling down mountains, breaking a whopping 47 bones during her career - until a double fracture in her right leg eventually put paid to her sporting career in 2014.

Now, she's on a different journey - parenting - and the 36-year-old admits this is by far the toughest challenge she's ever experienced.

It's a topic she explores in her podcast series - full of 'make it real' tales of broken nights, teething and the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding, mixed with the joys of parenthood. Alcott and her husband, 25 times British ski champ Dougie Crawford, have two sons - Lochlan (known as Lockie), who's two, and seven-week-old Cooper - and she's keen to show that life isn't all glossy magazine photo shoots.

"Of course, we do have a wonderful life together. We share a passion for skiing and know how lucky we are to have two beautiful, healthy sons, and I'm totally fulfilled by my kids. But I'm happy to admit I've found motherhood is 100% tougher than skiing!" says Alcott.

"When you're skiing or an athlete, it's all about you - your aim is to make yourself stronger, faster, and reach your goals. It's a very selfish existence. But when you're a mother, it's all about the responsibility of someone else who's completely unknown to the world, so fragile, so new. It's really challenging, scary and lovely all at the same time."

"Dougie and I totally co-parent, he's devoted and hands-on. But I was on my own with the boys - Cooper was only three weeks - when he had to go away on a job. Lockie was teething, Cooper was struggling to feed as he had tongue tie, I was exhausted and almost at breaking point, and it's the first time in my life that I reached out and said, 'I need help'," recalls Alcott. "I even went on Facebook and asked, 'Can anyone hold a baby for a couple of hours!'

"I don't want to come across like this perfect celebrity mum, who snapped back into shape instantly and took coping with two little ones in my stride," she adds. "Just like any other mum, as well as experiencing the amazing highs at a few points, at others I've relied on TV to entertain the two-year-old and reached for the biscuits to give me fast energy.

"Dealing with an energetic toddler and a new baby and a career is full-on. It can be just as fun and also as scary, exciting and demanding as any ski challenge."

Here, Hove-born Alcott tells us more...

What do you share on the podcasts that could help other mums?

"I think motherhood's a mix of mayhem and meaningfulness, and I talk about that real experience and hopefully share help from experts. We're all happy to share the up times on social media, and I do that myself, but we don't often record the down times. I'm very honest when I speak on my podcasts but my social media may set out a bit of a rose-tinted image and that's something I want to change, but it takes confidence to do that.

"One of my podcasts is called 'Boobs', and focuses on the different attitude I have to them now. I used to want people to look at my boobs. I thought it would detract from my large bottom (even though I was proud of my athletic frame and knew I needed strong gluts to perform at the highest level, I was still self-conscious of its size!)

"My relationship with my boobs has now changed - their role is no longer to attract attention but to serve an amazing purpose. Now I am a mum, and when I go out, I will not hide in pub or cafe toilets to breastfeed. I am lucky to have the confidence to do so and I talk to a breastfeeding expert."

Would you like to have more children?

"I don't want any more. If we were outnumbered by children, it would mean Lockie and Cooper's experiences would be lessened, because we wouldn't be able to give them the attention we think they deserve. It's really exciting now I know I've got my team for life.

"Of course, we want them to love skiing and the mountains. Lockie went on skis at 14 months and we'll put Cooper on when he's ready, but secretly, I can't bear the thought of them following in mine and Dougie's footsteps and risking themselves downhill racing. That's just a mother's instinct, but I wouldn't ever stop them pursuing their passion, whatever it is - I always have."

Do you miss competing?

"I'd spent 20 years of my life not even having to say my surname, because I was defined as 'Chemmy the skier'. Overnight, that ended. So yes, I do miss it, but I've moved on. The only reason I retired was because a surgeon told me if I crashed again - I have a 15-inch metal nail embedded in my right leg to hold it together after a compound open fracture in 2010 - he'd have to amputate it.

"It was important for me to have a baby quickly after retiring, so I could have a new role and focus. Having Lockie gave me fulfilment and focus in one."

What event most changed your life?

"Two things changed my life massively. My mum, who was my biggest supporter, died when she was 59, which was a terrible shock. It changed my perspective because it made me face the possibility of life ending too soon. It's made me determined to pack everything into every single day, to make the most of it. My mum always used to say 'carpe diem' - seize the day - and that's what we've named our business (the couple run ski camps for adults and children).

"After my crash in 2010 when I shattered my leg, it was a massive challenge to come back and compete again. I knew in my heart after the injury that I'd never win the Olympics, which had been my ultimate dream, but I was determined not to give up competing, and my inner confidence and determination pulled me through and on.

"I won the British Championships after that, but never truly reached my potential, although I was eighth in the world and 11th twice in the Olympics.

"My favourite saying, which sums up what I believe is, 'I never lose: Either I win, or I learn'. It's about having the confidence to try to do something, even if you might make a mistake or you think your chances aren't good, because as long as you learn from it, it's positive."

How do you look after your wellbeing?

"Skiing is obviously fundamental for my wellbeing and I love yoga and tennis. I journal and try to record daily achievements, no matter how small, opportunities to look forward to and things that make me laugh. It helps me feel grateful for what we have, and keep a balanced outlook on life."

What's the best piece of advice you've received?

"Someone told me that in parenting, you need to trust what you're doing is right. Of course, I sometimes have 'mother guilt' about working for instance, just like anyone else. But at the end of the day, if what you're doing suits you and your family, it's fine, and you should disregard everyone else's perceptions and opinions.

"There's so much opportunity for comparison out there with social media, which can make it hard, but it's about sticking to your gut instinct."

To listen to Chemmy Alcott's podcasts, visit soundcloud.com/user-413352860/motherhood-boobs

Belfast Telegraph