Evergreen Naomi Folkard says motherhood has broadened her horizons and is keeping the competitive fires burning brighter than ever heading into her fifth Olympic Games.
Midlands ace Folkard was officially selected last month in a diverse, three-pronged women's team including debutants Bryony Pitman, 24, and 28-year-old Sarah Bettles. The three-time World Championship medallist had planned to hang up her bow after Rio but says the influence of boyfriend Jon rekindled her love for competition, and another crack at a maiden Games medal.
Folkard became a mother to a baby, Emily, during lockdown and admits her newfound maternal instincts mean her priorities have shifted heading into this summer's Japanese showpiece.
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The 37-year-old, one of over 1,100 National Lottery-funded elite athletes on UK Sport's World Class Programme, said: "Before, archery was my entire life.
"I said before I was going to go and get a life [after Rio]. I've had a baby, and now she's the most important thing in my life. Archery has completely done a U-turn and my perspective has completely changed.
"I struggle to leave [Emily] behind when I come out training, so that's something that I'm working on. Having to leave her at home means I'm going to make this Games count. Otherwise, why am I leaving her at home? I've got that in my mind as well.
The pregnancy affected my shooting, but only in that my posture and back went curved rather than quite straight. But other than that I was able to carry on training. I had two weeks off after the birth and then I started training again, so I'm really looking forward to Tokyo. I don't think having a baby should be able to impact that.
UK Sport's National Lottery funded World Class Programme has powered Folkard's career and allows her to train full time, access the world's best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.
The Warwickshire star scooped bronze medals at the 2007, 2017 and 2019 World Championships and soared to both World and European Games nirvana in 2013 and 2019.
The 2010 Commonwealth silver medallist is yet to ascend the Olympic podium, however, reaching the last 16 at Beijing 2008 and bowing out at the quarter-final stages five years ago.
That looked to be the end of her Olympic journey but Folkard, who specialises in the recurve category, couldn't resist the temptation to pick up a bow once more and continue her remarkable streak.
She's relishing the diverse Team GB blend of youth and experience and admits competing alongside Pitman and Bettles is intensifying her hunger for success.
Folkard, who is looking to add to the 864 Olympic and Paralympic medals won by Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes since the advent of National Lottery funding in 1997, added: "I'm totally as motivated as I have been before, perhaps more so because
"I have that much confidence in Sarah and Bryony and our ability to compete. Bryony has got a lot of energy, and we work really, really well together and get on really well.
"Because it's my fifth Games, I feel more at home with the news - and comfortable. I am looking forward to the Games and competing for a medal with Sarah and Bryony."
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