If there’s one thing we know about babies, it’s that as soon as you establish a routine with them, they break it. As parents, we adjust, move on, and establish new routines we know will also slide into oblivion. But when your work is training for the most prestigious and important sporting event in the world, that may be easier said than done.
Canadian Olympic medalist canoer Mark Oldershaw and his wife, Olympic swimmer Annamay Pierse recently became parents to Josephine, who was born 14 weeks prematurely, and they’re finding the change in their rigid training routines to be a pretty tricky adjustment.
“As an athlete you’re very scheduled.” Oldershaw says. “The wild card is having a kid. But we’ll make it work.”
Of course, if Oldershaw needs any advice on how to wear the mantle of fatherhood at the same time as training for the Olympics, he need look no further than his father. Or his uncles. Or his grandfather. All of them have competed in an Olympic Games, and understand the challenges of balancing both family and sporting success. Oldershaw’s father Scott is still his canoeing coach, and growing up, Mark had to rely on the personal support of his mom while his dad traveled the world coaching others.
“Of course I always dreamed of becoming an Olympic athlete. I dreamed it, I wished it, but I dreamed about being an NHL player or a doctor as well” Oldershaw says. But he quickly found the passion in the one sport that had been with him from the very beginning. “I dropped out of hockey because it got way too serious way too quickly, when I was younger”, and his mom had always encouraged him to have fun in whatever sport he pursued.
As his grandfather Bert founded the Mississauga Canoe Club, Mark was practically raised on the water. “The canoe was our babysitter growing up”, he says.
Oldershaw relied on the men in his family, which he reflects on while he looks forward to his own first Father’s Day. “My Dad was my coach, so I got daily advice from him. I still do”. But he was getting more than just practical advice. “My grandfather passed on the Olympic Games passion and the Olympic spirit to me. People always talk about me being the only one in the family to win a medal but for them the medal didn’t matter. They were just proud to be a member of the Canadian Olympic team.”
When I asked him what was harder, training for the Olympics or being a Dad, he laughed “Being a Dad. I try to do my part, because I travel so much. But when I’m at home, I try to hit 50/50 on the Pampers’ changes, at least.”
As two world class athletic parents, they are constantly asked about their daughter’s future in the world of sports. “We talk about our daughter being an athlete, as the child of two Olympians, but we hope to give her many opportunities and if she never plays sports, that’s okay with us. We’ll always be supportive.” Just as he had the support from his mom, as well.
“My Mom, like most, was driving non-stop, but as a kid of course you don’t appreciate it” says Oldershaw. His wife, and new mom, Annamay understands this and explains why outside sponsorship has been so important to them. “It validates your hard work. As a mom you never really get the thanks. The journey, the hard days and nights, it makes it all count.”
And count is one thing they might want to make baby Josephine learn how to do, as this third generation Oldershaw and sixth family member goes for his second Olympic medal in Rio this summer.
Mark Oldershaw is sponsored by Procter & Gamble’s Pampers brand diapers. For more up to date information on Oldershaw and other Canadian Athletes, follow #PampersParents and #ThankYouMom. Kathy Buckworth will be traveling to the Olympics in Rio.