Shooting-Rutter aims for a medal three months after giving birth

By Hannah Ellison

BISHAM ABBEY, England (Reuters) - Amber Rutter almost quit after catching COVID on the eve of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics but the British shooter is in a happy place as she prepares to compete at the Paris Games three months after giving birth.

The memory of that past trauma even triggers a little giggle as she mentions it, unthinkable when her Tokyo dream was destroyed after five years of training.

"Generally, I've just been so happy," the 26-year-old skeet shooter and world champion, whose son Tommy was born in April, told Reuters Television after being announced in Britain's six-strong team on Friday.

"Don't get me wrong, those first two weeks of bringing home a newborn and not having an absolute clue of what I'm meant to do with him was really, really difficult.

"I remember one day where he was just flat out crying from, I think it was one o'clock in the afternoon until like one o'clock in the morning and we could not settle him. And I was like, there's absolutely no way that I'm going to be able to leave him to go and train, let alone go away for five days for an Olympics.

"But you do just figure things out as you go along. And I think day by day my confidence has grown. And now I'm just loving every minute of being a mum. And I'm just really proud of myself for making things work and still doing what I want to do."

Paris will be Rutter's second Games after travelling to Rio de Janeiro in 2016 as the teenage Amber Hill, even if the French capital will be far from the Olympic shooting venue in Chateauroux some 270km to the south.

Tommy will not be making the journey with her, with family stepping in, but the four-times European champion hopes to bring a medal back for him.

Skeet shooters use a shotgun to hit moving clay targets that fly away at speeds of more than 100kph and at different heights after being released from two throwing machines.


Rutter, who was introduced to the sport by her grandfather, speaks with pride of her journey from despair and dealing with demons to regaining her mental strength and confidence.

"Honestly, after Tokyo I was ready to quit the sport altogether. I thought that was it for me," she said.

"I had so much resentment for COVID and the times that we were living in, and I was just generally so unhappy and it sent me into a real sort of downward spiral with my mental health. And I know that I really, really struggled."

There were many reasons for carrying on, not least financial, but the arrival of her son has taken the motivation to another level.

"I'm not just doing it for myself now, I'm also doing it for him," she said.

Rutter, who was named the BBC's Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2013 and whose husband is a motocross racer, is one of several athlete mothers in Team GB and being part of that community also fills her with pride.

"Yes, our lives may be completely hectic with navigating children and our sport and the passions that we want, but I think it's a really amazing example to other women out there," she said.

"Just showing that it doesn't matter whether it's sport or a passion...your life doesn't need to stop once you have kids anymore.

"Of course my number one aim is to be the best mum possible to Tommy but I also have dreams of my own outside of him, and I really just want to show him that we can do both. And I hope that women can really see that and take inspiration from it."

(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar)