Mums are in the same boat

Qualifying for the Olympic Games is tough enough, but Cambridge rowers Brooke Francis and Lucy Spoors have powered through that challenge while navigating the choppy waters of new parenthood.

The two mums will represent New Zealand in the women’s double sculls at the games in Paris this month.

Lucy Spoors and her son Rupert (left) and Brooke Francis and her daughter Keira celebrate the naming of the New Zealand Olympic rowing team at the Sir Don Rowlands Event Centre in Cambridge last month. Photo: Steph Bell-Jenkins

Both women are former world champions.  Spoors won silver in the women’s eight at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and Francis won silver in the women’s double.

“After Tokyo I wanted to start a family, and I didn’t see that as a barrier to continuing in sport,” said Francis, whose daughter Keira was born in September 2022.

“So I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of having Keira with me this cycle, and almost the challenge of having her has made it more rewarding in lots of ways.

“It’s probably made me enjoy every day just that little bit more, just having her, and having that perspective of every day is slightly different and it’s not going to be perfect. That’s almost a good mindset, being an athlete, that you’re not necessarily looking for perfection every day, but you’re looking for consistency and showing up and you know that you’re probably tougher than what you think you are.”

Francis moved to Cambridge 11 years ago and owns a house in town  with her husband Jeff.

“I love it,” she said.  “I particularly love it, having a family.  The streets are safe, there’s lots of parks, there’s always things to do on the weekends, whether it’s the trains or the market, so we love living here.”

Spoors, her boatmate, did her final year of high school at St Peter’s Cambridge and has lived here for more than 10 years.

“Definitely I consider Cambridge home now, I’ve been here for long enough,” she said.

“I love Cambridge.  I think coming from Christchurch, coming from a busier town, I’ve always loved, I guess, the quaintness of Cambridge and I love feeling part of a smaller community, and I’ve always felt this community has supported me to row well.”

She and her partner Brook Robertson had their son, Rupert Robertson, in December 2002.

“I knew I had potentially another Olympic Games in me, so I thought if it’s possible I need to give it a shot, and it’s been really special to give it a shot with him alongside me,” Spoors said.

“It wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be, but for me it was adapting to life as a mum, and adapting to how that made my rowing environment different… having to be flexible with just the normal juggles of being a mum was probably the thing that took the most getting used to for me.”

She said being in the same boat as Francis – in more ways than one – had meant a lot.

“We’ve definitely learned to lean on each other,” she said.

Lucy Spoors and her son Rupert (left) and Brooke Francis and her daughter Keira celebrate the naming of the New Zealand Olympic rowing team at the Sir Don Rowlands Event Centre in Cambridge last month. Photo: Steph Bell-Jenkins.

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