At the start of 2017, Jodie Swallow-Cunnama claimed her seventh consecutive title at Ironman 70.3 South Africa, gearing up for yet another year of excellent racing. The next race on her schedule was the Ironman African Championship. And then she got news that would change the rest of the year — and her life. Jodie was going to be a mother.

During her “pregnancy pause”, Jodie remained active with exercise, documenting her experience as a pregnant professional athlete over her social media channels. After son Jack’s birth in late November, Jodie has steadily ramped up her training while juggling child-rearing duties with husband James. “We are both highly ambitious, James coming off potentially his best year ever and I, determined to get back to racing after a year off. Added to that, we both have an equally important job in parenting Jack.”

She takes inspiration from other champion athletes who have trod this path — athletes like Nicola Spirig and Rachel Joyce.

“My comeback from pregnancy and birth will take time and I am determined not to rush the process and threaten injury or burnout. My goals and expectations are fluid with that in mind and I’m kind of excited about the prospect of that unknown, having had so many seasons focusing on such specific deadlines and repetitive patterns. With change comes opportunity.

“It is, inarguably, more difficult to balance training with a newborn baby than without, but life is altogether better and I am happy trying to do it… I have always performed well under duress and Jack is the most inspirational and excessively cute distraction I have ever had.”

In true Jodie fashion, she is just as highly motivated to make her athletic comeback as she is to be the best possible mother she can be. “It is a difficult puzzle for any woman: the balancing of their career with being a first-time mother and it is no different for me as a professional sportswoman,” she says.

“As a mother it is essential Jack is my priority, but as a woman it is also important to care for my own ambition and promise. I think that’s become part of who I want to be as a mother. I want Jack to know me as strong, committed and focused, and to know that you should always continue to chase goals, even when it becomes difficult, if they still ignite your passion.”

There is much in 2018 to ignite Jodie’s passion, with the Ironman 70.3 World Championship set for the shores of Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa. It is a “home race” she is determined to qualify for over the summer.

“It will be really exciting to comeback as a different Jodie Cunnama in 2018 and be on the same race course and attack in a different ways to the Jodie Swallow I was before.”