Great Australian weightlifter faces new challenges
For the approaching Rio Olympics, female weightlifting champion Deborah Acason will be watching from home while taking care of her two daughters.
Since the birth of Eva in 2011 and Ella a few years later, the two-time Olympian has had to re-order her priorities, finding the relationship she has built with her little family matters more than the physical prizes she gets from weightlifting.
She has also found parenting is not without its challenges.
"In my 15 years of training at an elite level and competing in the Olympics I have never been so exhausted as I have been as a parent," she says.
But she is thankful her daughters are growing strong.
"Both girls are officially off the chart for their height and weight, which is pretty exciting for me as a weightlifting mother," she says.
In 2012 Deborah came within eight kilograms of primary selection at the Olympic trials just nine months after Eva's traumatic two-day birth and resuscitation.
She says Ella's birth itself was equally as traumatic, although Ella was breathing and had a heartbeat when she was born.
"I was very thankful that Eva was alive and well and I tried not to bring any of those same fears and worries into the birth for Ella," she says.
Deborah puts her girls before everything else, including not only her weightlifting career but also a law career for which she has acquired a degree.
"As much as I want to start working at a firm as a lawyer, my children come first," she says.
"I would never trade the time I have with my babies to go to work. Josh and I have made financial sacrifices to make our lives work without me having to go back."
She says that hopefully, when the kids are older, she will be able to practise law.
While weightlifting might be taking a backseat, Deborah is far from giving it up altogether. She remains on the Board of the Australian Weightlifting Federation where she helps train up some of the potential competitors for the Commonwealth Games in 2018.
And if anyone is qualified to train these hopefuls and help direct the future of weightlifting it is certainly Deborah, whose Commonwealth Games record includes gold in 2006, three silver medals in 2002, and bronze in 2010; not to mention competing in the Olympic Games in 2004 and 2008.
We might even see her lift at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, something it seems Eva would not be opposed to.
"I always joke and say, 'Do you want mummy to stop lifting?'" Deborah says.
"She always goes, 'No, I want to watch you lift!'"
In helping up-and-coming weightlifters train for the Olympics, Deborah gives them the following advice: handling the pressure is much easier when you don't feel like you're under pressure.
"Because I was competing for the love of the sport I didn't feel as if there were any expectations," she says.
She focused on doing her best, and rested in the fact her value ultimately lay in God, not in her success.
She says her faith helped her keep things in perspective.
"Even just by reading the Bible and remembering simple things," she explains.
"God can speak and create the world in six days, God wiped out almost the whole world with a flood.
"I remembered all the individual stories of the prophets, New Testament disciples and of course Jesus' birth, death and resurrection. That helped me to keep perspective with where my sport and my life fit in with the big picture."
Looking back, she says she can see how God never left her in the tough times but wanted to help her persevere to the next phase of life.
"Without Jesus' love and forgiveness I know my life would be very different," she says.
"I would have lived my life my way and made me the centre of everything and most likely made a mess of it all. I would not be married to my loving husband with two beautiful girls.
"I am understanding more what it means to live life to the full with Jesus, as a mother and wife rather than as an elite athlete."
Her guidance to others pursuing high-level sport is, "Do your best while you can but remember there is always more to life than sport. It can be a wonderful blessing to you but don't give up everything for it because if you do you might have nothing left."•