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Olympics: British archer Folkard back for fifth Games after giving birth

Alan Baldwin
·2-min read

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Naomi Folkard said after the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics that she was ready to retire from archery because she needed to get a life but the Briton will be shooting for a medal again at her fifth Games in Tokyo.

The big difference is that this time the 37-year-old will be competing as a mother, having given birth to a daughter 12 weeks ago.

"Before, my archery was my entire life and I said I was going to go and get a life, so I've had a baby," Folkard told reporters after being named as one of six TeamGB archers on Thursday.

"Now she is the most important thing in my life... my perspective has completely changed."

In Rio, after reaching the quarter-finals, Folkard had declared: "I’ve been a full-time archer for 11 years and I need a life... I’m 32 and I don’t have a pension and really I need to get a job."

Walking away from the sport she loves was never going to be easy, however.

"I did say I would retire and I kind of did," said Folkard. "I had a month off after Rio and my boyfriend kept entering me into competitions so I had to start training again."

Folkard said that the pregnancy had affected her posture, with her back curving rather than staying straight, but she started training again two weeks after the birth.

"I am really looking forward to Tokyo and I don't think having a baby should be able to impact that," she added while recognising that separation was both a problem and motivation.

"I struggle to leave her behind when I come out for training," she said. "That's something we're working on.

"Having to leave her at home means that I'm going to make this (training) session count, otherwise why am I leaving her at home?"

South Korea's female archers hold all the Olympic records and have won every team gold since the first in 1988. They have also won eight of 12 individual golds and all but one since 1984.

Britain's sole success was Alison Williamson's bronze in Athens in 2004.

Folkard, who competed at those Games and finished 17th, said she was undeterred.

"One of the first competitions I did (after Rio) was an indoor competition, and there were loads of Koreans there... and I beat a couple of them and finished fifth. So I can beat Koreans.

"I know it can be done," said the Briton, who took team bronze medals at the 2017 and 2019 world championships.

Asked whether Tokyo would be her last Games, Folkard kept her options open.

"I'm not going to predict anything right now. I haven't got the energy to even think about that really. I'm just going to see how things go."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)