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70OLYMPIC REVIEW EXCELLENCE As if training to be an elite athlete wasn't hard enough, many of the sportswomen in Beijing also had to juggle the responsibilities of motherhood with their gruelling workout schedules. Olympic mums such as Japanese judoka Ryoko Tani, who won bronze in the 48kg category, and soccer players Christie Rampone and Kate Markgraf, who won gold with the US team, have helped prove that having a baby doesn't mean the end of a glittering sporting career. The first mother to win a gold medal in Beijing was Chinese judo champion Xian Dongmei. The 32- year- old gave birth to her first child in January last year and admitted she found it hard being away from her daughter during training. " What I want most right now is to have a good rest and stay with my little daughter," she said after successfully defending her Olympic title in the 52kg category. " I want very much to make it up to my daughter." Italian fencer Valentina Vezzali is another who hasn't let becoming a mother get in the way of her being the best in the world. The 34- year- old made Olympic history in Beijing by becoming the first fencer to win three successive individual titles, as she took gold in the foil event. Vezzali later revealed that her son was the inspiration behind her achievement. " My son asked me for a medal, but he didn't ask for a particular one." she said. " Here it is!" Perhaps the most remarkable return to action came from US swimmer Dara Torres, who at 41 became the oldest Olympic swimming medallist ever, winning three silvers in the Water Cube just two years after giving birth to her daughter. Torres, who also won medals at the 1984, 1988, 1992 and 2000 Olympic Games, revealed she was happy to be a role model to others. " There are a lot of middle- aged men and women who have contacted me or stopped me in the street and they have told me that I am an inspiration to them," she said. " What I have done is show them that you can do it." MUM'STHEWORD Above Christie Rampone ( left) and Kate Markgraf ( far right) on the pitch with their children RightItaly's Valentina Vezzali celebrates

OLYMPIC REVIEW71 EXCELLENCE Did you feel added pressure going into the competition with it taking place in Beijing? I made special preparations before the Games to deal with the frenzied home crowd. We had a lot of training sessions in simulated situations so that I was able to concentrate better on the competition during the Games. I competed in Beijing as the defending champion so there was a lot of pressure. There is nothing you can do about it, but you can ensure every movement is crisp and sharp and make sure you are in sync with your team-mate in the pairs. I told myself that I couldn't be beaten by the pressure. I needed to focus on the board under my feet and take control of myself. Did the events go exactly as you had planned? The victory was not as easy as expected or it looked. We put a lot of effort into winning the gold medal. As for the result, I always treat it with detachment. I did everything I can do during the training and I did not obsess with the gold medal. I know if I can give my best during the Games, it will come naturally. Anyway, I feel good about myself because I was able to put on the best performance no matter what happened. Even when my rivals were very close, I was not fazed. What did you think of the Water Cube? When I stepped on the springboard in the Water Cube for the first time, I was very impressed because it is so huge. I have been to many places before but I have never seen such a big diving hall. At the same time, I know I need to adjust myself according to the venue, in particular, the placement. How do you feel being the most decorated Olympic diver in history? I was not as excited as I imagined when others told me that I was the most decorated Olympic diver in history. I was just trying to perform what I have been training for so many years. Everything comes naturally. I was very excited when I stood on the podium and listened to the national anthem. But after that, I felt calm. Why do you think the Chinese team excels at diving? Diving is the sport that requires athletes to beat his or her best, but it doesn't mean that you need to battle alone. Apart from good techniques, we need a strong team power. Our squad is a united team and I don't think I can do that much without it. What will be your lasting memory of the Games? My last memory of the Games is not the podium moment but how I enjoyed every dive during the competition. I had the utmost joy and confidence each time I stood on the springboard and prepared to dive. GUOJINGJING CHINESEDIVINGGOLDMEDALLIST Right China's Diving Queen Guo Jingjing thrilled the home crowds in Beijing What were your preparations for the Olympic Games like? I had a tough year last year and then I won the World Championships in St. Petersburg which meant that expectations for the Games grew. The pressure from the media became greater and greater. What will your medal mean for fencing in Germany? I think my success did a lot for the sport both during the Games and also in the run- up. For two months it was constantly in the media. With my gold medal and my team- mate Benjamin Kleibrink's gold in the men's event, I hope that fencing will gain even more attention and that it will become an established sport in Germany. You have strong links with China, don't you? In 2001, I was here for the University Games when it was announced that Bejing had won the Games. When that happened, I told myself that I would like to be back in Beijing when the Games took place. For it to actually happen and for me to get a gold medal – that is something special. What will be your memories of Beijing 2008? Winning an Olympic gold medal will change my life. To have won first the World Championship and then an Olympic gold is the most an athlete can achieve. In the future I want to work together with the Chinese. I speak the language and I like the people. I'm going to take a holiday and think about how I can do that. BRITTAHEIDEMANN GERMANY, FENCINGGOLDMEDALLIST Right Britta Heidemann has close links with Beijing