Lizzie Deignan: British cyclist on ‘horrendous’ Rio experience, parenthood and Tokyo Olympics

Lizzie Deignan thinks back on the 2016 Olympics realizing she is a more grounded individual as a result of it.

However, that doesn’t remove how “terrible” the experience was for her, one that stripped away her affection for cycling and left her doubting where her future lay.

It was only days before the ladies’ street race in Rio when the news broke that Deignan – then, at that point Armitstead – had been cleared to contend by the Court of Arbitration of Sport (Cas) having been suspended from cycling the earlier month.

She had been confronting a four-year boycott for missing three medications tests inside a one-year time span, placing her Olympics in danger.

However tolerating the second and third cases, Deignan contended the first was not her flaw but rather that of the testing specialists, and Cas concurred with her.

“It was terrible to be blamed for being a doper when it was the absolute last thing I could at any point do,” she reveals to BBC Sport.

“It was difficult to have yourself so freely addressed. Untruths can be composed, and you have no power over it.”

This wasn’t the means by which the Games should be for Deignan, a predominant power in ladies’ cycling and the prevailing title holder.

Misuse followed everything she might do, as it did her family, and security was needed in Rio to guarantee her wellbeing. Eventually, she completed fifth.

“It was only a bicycle competition to get past by then, it wasn’t tied in with attempting to win an Olympic decoration any longer, it was just about completing the race and returning home,” the 32-year-old says.

“I was tossed into this media storm where my entire standing was being risked. It was extremely challenging to handle it, and adapt to it. It was an incredibly, troublesome time.

“In any case, sincerely I can say that I’m a more grounded individual for it, it’s shown me an extraordinary arrangement about loads of things.”


In the repercussions, Deignan “unquestionably” contemplated tapping out. She was despondent for quite a while after Rio until, she says, she went on maternity leave in 2018.

Orla’s appearance, that September, made a huge difference.

“It made me fall back in affection with the game,” she says.

“Being back on the bicycle post Orla was actually similar to ‘amazing, I can in any case do it’. I knew immediately, the first occasion when I got back on the bicycle, this is the thing that I’m made to do and this is the thing that I’m acceptable at.”

She focuses to the “outer pressing factor” during the section of her vocation before she turned into a mother, when it was “practically like individuals around me needed it more than I”.

In this new part, one of “equilibrium and point of view”, she has recaptured the responsibility for own objectives and dreams. Since getting back from maternity leave, the Trek-Segafredo rider has won the Women’s Tour and the generally speaking 2020 World Tour title.

“When you’ve gone through 10 years seeking after one objective of being the awesome world at something, and afterward you accomplish it, you’re met with this question mark of is sufficiently that? What do I do now?” she says.

“I became best on the planet and made progress toward that Olympic gold, I didn’t accomplish it however I drew near, and I just idea ‘I don’t have a clue what I’m doing it for’. I felt like I arrived at a point where I was doing it for others.

“It was such a shock to others when I became pregnant, and I figured ‘when did I turn out to be only a cyclist in your eyes?’ ‘For what reason is it such a shock for you that I might want to settle on a human choice and something that would fulfill me?’

“Backing away from sport was something to be thankful for to do to acknowledge who I am personally and what satisfies me, and to simply work on something for myself. I think returning into sport, I’m doing it for me, and that is the thing that I’d lost.”

She adds: “Orla has given me an immense feeling of equilibrium and viewpoint that it’s a serious childish thing to do to attempt and simply seek after this one objective for yourself.

“It’s not the most important thing in the world and it doesn’t make me who I am. Who I am is Orla’s mum and Phil’s significant other. I like having more to my character than simply being a cyclist.”

Yet at the same time that Olympic gold avoids Deignan, and the impending Tokyo Olympics – her third Games – will be a totally different encounter to Rio in more manners than one.

Postponed by a year in light of the Covid pandemic, no abroad fans are allowed and that is something Deignan, who dominated street race silver at London 2012, isn’t anticipating.

“At the point when I took maternity leave to have my little girl, the greatest objective, the carrot toward the finish of all the difficult work, was Tokyo – that is the reason I returned,” she says. “To have it delayed last year was troublesome.

“I’m unquestionably someone that performs truly well on the huge event, so I feed off swarms, I feed off pressure, so I figure I will miss that.”

It implies she should leave her significant other, previous cyclist Philip Deignan, who is likewise her mentor, and little Orla behind – something they are utilized to however it never gets simpler.

Orla comprehends why she disappears so frequently, yet loves to watch races and waves at planes flying overhead when mum is away.

Yet, regardless of whether this will the first and only time Orla waves her off to an Olympics is a choice yet to be made.

“Is there Paris in me? It relies upon which day of the week you ask me,” Deignan says. “Today, no, a hard bicycle ride and a testy baby, yet tomorrow may be a flawless bicycle ride and Orla may be splendid.

“Whatever occurs, it will be a family choice.”

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