Elite kayaker Alyce Wood is 32 weeks pregnant and admits she’s an unusual sight on the Gold Coast canals where she trains.
- Alyce Wood says many people expected her to retire from kayaking when she got pregnant
- Speaker Melanie Haymen says there is little research on training elite athletes during pregnancy
- Wood, 29, represented Australia at the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympics
“A lot of people look at me when I’m paddling and wonder what’s going on,” she said.
“The belly is definitely protruding from my legs now and it’s a little harder to turn and paddle properly, so it looks a little weird.
“I’m not ready to finish paddling yet.”
The 29-year-old represented Australia in sprint kayaking at the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Wood said her decision to continue paddling while pregnant surprised many who had assumed she would retire from the sport.
“It really hurt me…so I was pretty vocal about what I’m doing and what my intentions are,” she said.
“There’s not a lot of research in the area, so we’re going a bit blind.
“We take it as it comes, which is a bit scary, but quite exciting to try to set a precedent and pave the way for girls in the future.”
The Australian Institute of Sport conducts research on pregnant athletes and women’s health.
Wood’s training data is monitored by Melanie Haymen, a senior lecturer at Rockhampton-based CQUniversity (CQU).
“Twenty years ago, we couldn’t have imagined women exercising during pregnancy, let alone elite athletes.
“With Alyce, we are able to better understand what these women are really capable of and what we might be able to do to move forward with elite athletes and recreational athletes during pregnancy.”
Wood said it was not unusual for women in other countries to continue canoeing after becoming mothers.
“In Australia it’s more unusual. The last person to get pregnant, have a baby and come back was my mother-in-law.
“My husband is now 28, so it’s been a long time since this happened in Australia.”
Anna Wood won a bronze medal at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, two years after giving birth to son Jordan Wood, who also represented Australia in kayaking.
Paddle Australia women’s sprint kayak coach Rene Olsen says this is only the second time he has coached a heavily pregnant athlete.
“There have been a lot of women, top athletes, who have had pregnancies and come back,” he said.
“We have a really good plan of what we’re trying to achieve and the things Alyce is trying to achieve this year is different from the rest of the group.
Olsen said Wood’s training regimen would make it easier for her to return to sports once she gives birth.
“Alyce listens to her body and makes adjustments when she feels things differently,” he said.
“It’s about good planning, but being able to adapt when you need to.”
Wood said she didn’t know when she would stop paddling.
“I’m going to paddle until I’m uncomfortable, but right now I’m 32 weeks pregnant and still comfortable in the boat,” she said.
This will include working out at the gym, swimming and stationary biking.
Wood is due to give birth in June and her aim is to represent Australia at the Paris Olympics in 2024.