MacDonald eyes Olympic berth
Twelve weeks after Jessie MacDonald gave birth to her son, Von, via C-section, the former world wrestling champion will step on the mat in Sofia, Bulgaria, this week looking to qualify for the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
“It is pretty incredible what your body can do if you really focus in on those 12 weeks,” the 35-year-old Brock Wrestling Club member said. “I pushed the limits but I wanted to be back.”
The Commonwealth Games silver and bronze medalist was on a stationary bike six days after the surgery and returned to on-mat training three weeks after the C-section.
“I’m sure a woman reading this would think that’s ridiculous but I have been training my body for so many years,” the eight-time Canadian senior champion said. “I’m not saying women should be doing this but I’m saying as an athlete we are able to push our bodies and we know our bodies a little bit more. Our bodies have gone through a little bit more in life.”
The three-time world championship medalist feels she is ready to compete for one of the two available Olympic spots in Bulgaria.
“I am not bad. I trained through my pregnancy, although, you clearly can’t wrestle. I was still, running, lifting and doing yoga and being physical. I did stay in shape, to some degree.”
She admits it took a while to feel ‘normal’ again.
“I was pretty rusty with my wrestling and things were kind of stagnant but now I’m feeling in the groove and feeling that natural movement with my body, just moving instead of having to think about it,” she said. “Everything is coming into place and that’s what my coaches have been saying to me. They told me to have faith in the process and I didn’t need to be ready today. They said I would be ready on May 7 and I feel that. I know I didn’t have a lot of time but you have to trust in the process.”
MacDonald doesn’t feel any different physically being a mom for a second time — she has a three-year-old daughter Ella — but she has noticed an emotional and mental change.
“It has relaxed me a little bit and it brings me a lot of pride to know that I am setting an example for my kids,” she said. “I hope 10, 20 and 30 years from now I will be able to talk about when they were babies and what I did.”
She believes what she is doing is maybe a little bit more important for Ella than Von.
“A lot of time people think that you have a baby and life’s over and you can’t have your own dreams,” MacDonald said. “Everybody has their moments of doubt and even in my recovery I wondered if I would be able to get myself to where I need to be in time. And whether I should be flying across the world to compete. Finally I told myself that if Ella was in my shoes right now what would I tell her? I would just say, ‘You can do it and take the risk. Go after your dreams.’ I would never ever tell my kids to not follow their passions and dreams.”
MacDonald has yet to be vaccinated for COVID-19 but is confident she will be safe.
“We are in a bubble. We have our own bus we are only allowed to be in our hotel. All of our meals will be at the hotel, there’s a mat, sauna and workout facility at the hotel and the venue. We are not going out in the population and we are trying to limit our exposure to everybody.”
All wrestlers have to test negative before they get on their flight and will then have to have another negative COVID test once they land in Bulgaria.
The former St. Catharines athlete of the year is looking for her first berth in the Olympics and heads into the final qualifier with a different perspective.
“I feel like the last couple of years have been a rollercoaster with this whole journey,” she said. “I do recognize how much of a gift this all is and it is an opportunity and at the end of the day all I can do is stick to what we’ve been working on, be very tactical and have a game plan. It is one of those things where fate is going to take over and I do think I have it within me to qualify and go to the Olympics.”
Her goal is to not overthink things, not make the event bigger than it is and focus on what she needs to do to be successful.
“With age and experience you really start to direct your career in sport,” she said. “Putting a big label on something and going in with the mentality that it is do our die . At the end of the day life will go on for me and I need to go out and focus on what I can control. What I can control is myself, my moves and my composure and all these things. It’s simplifying things and focusing on what I can do to control the matches.”
She has not made any plans for her wrestling career beyond the qualifier.
“They were asking about other tournaments after this but I just want to do one tournament at a time and that’s my focus,” she said. “I just want to enjoy the moment and take it one step at a time.”
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