It’s been an exciting week here at MummyPages. We were so lucky to get the opportunity to travel to London to help P&G welcome mums and families of Olympic athletes to their family home in London. P&G are the first ever Olympic sponsor to offer mums and families from around the world a ‘home away from home’ for the duration of the Olympic Games. The P&G family home is available to the families of more than 10,000 athletes from around the world, including our very own Katie Taylor and her family.
P&G’s wonderful ‘Thank you Mum’ campaign pays tribute to the mothers who have helped raise Olympic athletes and recognises their invaluable contributions in helping their children face the gruelling challenges that come hand in hand with being an Olympic athlete. P&G also gave the mums of all the athletes two tickets each to the opening ceremony, which we think is a very apt gift for some very deserving and truly inspirational women.
MummyPages were delighted to get the opportunity to chat with Katie Taylor’s mum Bridget about everything from what Katie was like as a child to her weakness for maltesers and everything in between!
Katie, as I’m sure you all know, is boxing in the lightweight division and is a gold medal favourite. For her mum Bridget though, she’s just Katie. She speaks fondly of how she was a tomboy growing up, how she always excelled at sports and how as soon as she’s home all she wants to do is go visit her granny.
The first thing that you notice when you meet Bridget Taylor is her warmth. You can’t help but feel relaxed in her company; she is easy-going, strong, humble and down-to-earth. Speaking to her gives you a really great sense of how Katie has managed to stay so grounded in spite of her astonishing success.
How did Katie get started? Did your love for boxing play a big part in what she has come to do?
I’d say her grá (love) for boxing did come from her father initially. When I met him he was a boxer as well. He boxed in England, he’s from Leeds, when he came over then he did a bit of boxing and he won an Irish title when he was young, before Katie was even born. The sporting side of her life and her love of sport came from her dad.
What was Katie like as a child?
Katie was a tomboy; she wouldn’t have been your typical girl. I have two girls and two sons. Katie was very close to her older brother, there’s only a year and a couple of months between them, other people used to think they were twins when they were growing up! They would have played a lot of sport together. They played a lot of football on the bank where we lived and they were in running club together. She was just really good at sports when she was younger, all kinds of sports. She was really good at sprinting, she ran for the county, she won a few county medal and an all schools 1500m race as well. She played soccer for Ireland too, she captained the team.
How is she doing, have you been talking to her?
I was talking to her this morning and last night before we did our final bit of packing. She’s fine, she’s a bit nervous but her preparation has gone well. It’s just down to holding the nerves now and trying to go into it as a normal competition. We’re trying to keep things as normal as we possibly can. She’s not watching too much about the Olympics which is quite difficult because it is everywhere. She’s just trying to keep her head down.
What do you watch out for, how can you tell if Katie is nervous about something?
If she’s nervous, she might be a little cranky. She is quite an easy going person in general and by nature a very quiet person, I think sometimes she might be a little bit snappy about things or sometimes I just hear it in her voice.
There’s so much invested in Katie and the whole Irish team, there is a sense that this medal is there for the taking? Is it a bit silly?
I think it is a bit silly, this is the Olympic Games and I think the Olympic Games have a habit of writing its own stories. When I think of the Beijing Olympics, I think it was the Croatian girl, the high jumper, every bookies in the world had her down to win, there was nobody who had ever beaten her before and she came second to a German girl who never did well afterwards so people rise up to the occasion and anything can happen. I think all you can do, if your preparation goes well, your training goes well, is go out and compete to the best of your ability.
Was there ever a moment when Katie was a child when you thought that the training, the sacrifices and the disappointments were too much for her?
I have asked her that even, do you ever feel like you have missed out on life, because the reality is, Katie didn’t have a 21st, she was training for a very important competition at the time, she had to train twice that day, so she wasn’t going to go out to a club, we kind of had a quiet family meal together. She’s not big on parties anyway; she doesn’t drink so she doesn’t feel like she’s missing out on anything there. She constantly tells us that she’s doing something she loves. She’s getting up every day and she’s doing something that she really loves. When she stops loving it, I think she feels that she will have plenty of time maybe for travel or things that she might want to do then.
I know religion plays a huge part in both your lives. Is that instrumental in keeping you both very grounded? What role does religion play at this level?
On every major competition that we have gone to, before Katie goes into the ring to fight, normally I meet her in the room and we pray together and I think for her that gives her a source of strength. I think for Katie, she will say she feels that maybe the pressure and the weight has been lifted off her and been put on someone else that can carry it. I think she feels that what she has is a gift from God, that she’s been given a gift. She feels that she just wants to use it to the best of her ability and to just honour God in it really. It [religion] would be hugely important to us. I’ve been getting texts off people since I arrived saying that they are praying for us. It’s just a relief for us really; you do feel a sense of relief and a release that it’s in God’s hands basically.
What’s your proudest moment as a mum to Katie?
I think there are so many proud moments. I think for us, it’s great to be away and it’s great to see her standing on the top of the podium. They are great moments but I think for us, it’s just Katie as a person, it’s just who she is. It’s her humility, it’s her quietness. She doesn’t want the limelight, she’s not looking for fame, there’s just something humble about her and she keeps us kind of humble in many ways as well. It’s hard to pick a moment, there’s been so many.
When Katie was growing up, was there something that made you think she was different?
I suppose, when she was in school, she was a very quiet, shy child and it used to worry me sometimes. I used to think, she’s really quiet, and you wouldn’t get many words out of her. I used to be nearly answering questions for her. I just felt that sports were her way of communicating in many ways. She was coming home with medals and there were different coaches saying get her into this and get her in that. She was good at basketball; she was really fast so I suppose there was an element where she kept winning things, even as a child in school that made us think there was something about her. I’m not sure we ever thought or dreamt about the Olympics.
When did it strike you the Olympics could be a possibility?
It’s a hard one because when she was boxing and when she was training up in the boxing club, initially there was no boxing for women in Ireland, never mind in Olympics. There were no sanctioned fights for women. She was training, in sparring with lads that had championships that they could go to. They were getting medals around their necks and there was nothing for her. All the things I saw her battle through, so many things and so many prejudices and then finally things came together. She boxed in the first sanctioned fight in Ireland when she was fifteen and won that. That kind of put women on the map then and they started being accepted in the boxing clubs. The association were then able to send her away to International tournaments. She just kind of kept winning but there were also defeats and there were tears. She lost her first European championships and she lost her first world championships. There were times when she had to say, do I really want to do this? I don’t know, all of a sudden, we’re here and it’s a bit surreal at the moment.
What qualities are important to instil in kids in order for them to have the confidence to follow their dreams and reach their potential?
I have four children and I made all the mistakes with the first two. (We all share a good laugh at this). Sometimes, it’s trial and error. Parenthood is the hardest job in the world at the end of the day, you make mistakes and you get things wrong. My motto is to love them in spite of themselves. Just love your kids, at the end of the day, regardless of what they want to do, support them and do your best.
What do you guys do when Katie isn’t training, what kind of things does she enjoy?
We’re not huge pub goers, to be honest with you. We go maybe for a meal or something like that. Katie loves going down to her granny, at home in Bray. She loves going down to see her. It’s the first place she goes after she gets home from a competition, for a bit of normality, such as walking the dog. She goes out with her friends. She loves the theatre that would be a good night for her. She loves Riverdance and all those kind of shows.
What about relationships?
I suppose, eventually she would love to be in a relationship. She’s been on a few dates and she’s been out a few times where she’s been to the cinema but she just can’t give it the time. At the end of the day, if you want to be a serious athlete, it’s hard to give your time to everything.
What is Katie’s nutrition like, I've heard that you have a big influence what she eats?
I’m not a fantastic cook. Her food is quite basic, just simple, healthy, well-balanced food particularly when she is in training. I try to do healthy juices for her when she’s making weight. It’s just simple, healthy, food; lots of salads, greens, fish, nothing extravagant. I don’t think Gordon Ramsay will be looking for me any time soon!
Will she have a treat or two after the event?
Chocolate! She will have plenty of chocolate, Maltesers. I always get her a nice, little box of maltesers after she comes home from a competition, that’s her weakness!
We’re pretty sure that Katie will have well and truly earned those Maltesers by the time the Olympics comes to a close!
This is where our time together ends, all that’s left to do is tell Bridget how unbelievably proud we are of her uniquely talented daughter. We make sure to tell her that all the MummyPages mums are rooting for Katie and the Irish team, and that we will be supporting them every step of the way!