Exclusive: Jess Learmonth's Inspirational Journey to Olympic Glory

Jess Learmonth sits down with to discuss the challenges of motherhood while striving for Olympic success. Discover how her four-month-old son fuels her determination and propels her towards greatness on the world stage.

Neil Goulding
Neil Goulding

Last Updated: 2024-03-27

Naim Rosinski

5 minutes read

Jess Learmonth on a stationary bike

New mum Jess Learmonth knows her quest for Paris 2024 Olympic success will be markedly different from many of her fellow medal hopefuls. But that didn’t stop the heavily pregnant Great British triathlete star from deadlifting heavy weights the day before she gave birth!

Defying Expectations

An eye-watering ask for us mere mortals, let alone someone who is nine months pregnant and weighing a hefty whack more than her usual body weight. But then driven GB star Learmouth is no ordinary athlete – and her impressive achievements over the last decade prove that.

“I did a 110kg deadlift in the gym the day before my son was born, how mad is that?” said Learmonth, who, with partner Jon, celebrated the birth of their son Freddie in September last year.

“I’d had an awful hip injury and I’d had six months of the sport, so I think put on about three stone in weight. I wasn’t living an athlete’s life at all and then I started to get back into training and rehab.”

She continues, “I was just about to get back into racing when we found out I was pregnant. It was a big shock. Freddie was a complete surprise, but also a silver lining, and all things changed from that point. But the support we got from British Triathlon and my sponsors was just amazing. I was really lucky and had no negativity from anyone.”

Journey to Motherhood

Leeds-based swimming, biking, and running powerhouse Learmonth only took up triathlon as a hobby. She was working in a supermarket on minimum wage before she realised she was so good at a triathlon that a career change was on the cards. European Championship silver and gold medals, as well as two Commonwealth silver medals, rank amongst her best achievements. Then, at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, she made history by winning gold alongside teammates Jonny Brownlee, Georgia Taylor-Brown, and Alex Yee in the inaugural mixed relay competition.

“It was such good fun in Tokyo, I loved it. It was mental winning gold,” she said.

“I’m never big-headed, but I just knew from the start of the race we’d win the gold medal. Once I’d known I’d not messed up the first leg I just had so much confidence in my teammates that we’d win.”

From Gold to Paris

Now is the “small” challenge of trying to repeat her memorable medal-winning success in France this summer. The triathlon competition at Paris 2024 will take place over three days at Pont d'lena on 30 July, 31 July, and 5 August 2024. The individual events feature a 1.5km swim, 40km cycle, and 10km run, but for the relay, each leg is shortened to a 300m swim, 6.8km cycle, and 2km run. 
Learmonth knows her quest for a second Olympic medal will require her to summon all of her special qualities. She plans to race competitively for the first time in March and then will hope to nail down her spot on the GB Olympic team at a crucial qualifying event in Cagliari, Italy, in May.

Image Credits: UK Run

Image Credits: UK Run

Nurturing Determination: Fueled by Freddie

It’s perhaps unsurprising that four-month-old Freddie is acting as an inspiration to mum as she looks to write another memorable chapter in her incredible career. “I’m loving being a mum now, but it’s a logistical nightmare training. I’ve given myself a real test,” she admitted. 

“I feel like Paris has come around very fast. It’s definitely a big change, but I’m definitely up for the challenge. I’d just love Freddie to be there in Paris. He wouldn’t know what mum had done, but it would be very special even if I didn’t win a medal. I’m 35 now, but Freddie motivates me, and I really think I could get to the Los Angeles Olympics [in 2028]. I’d be 39 by the time LA comes around, but I feel like I’ve got the drive and the passion to carry on – certainly now that I’ve got Freddie. If I didn’t have Freddie, I was going to retire after Paris because I wanted kids.”

Revitalizing Career Ambitions

Learmonth continues: “But I don’t have to retire now, he’s given me another lease of life in my career. My chances have slimmed down dramatically. I could be bloody horrendous when I race again but, as they say, ‘you’ve got to be in it to win’, so I’ll give it a go.”

“I wouldn’t put myself in this situation if I didn’t know what I was capable of. I’ve trained so hard for so many years, that I know when I’m capable and when I’m not. It will be strange for me to race again, not just because I’ve become a mum, but because I’ve also not raced since 2022. It’s been a long time, but I just think I’ll be excited because I’ve really missed it. Even if I crash out and burn, I’ll probably still love it.”

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Neil Goulding
Neil GouldingSenior Sports Reporter

Neil has been a journalist for longer than he'd care to remember, having written for national newspapers and respected publications for over 25 years. For the last three years he has worked freelance for BBC Sport, working on the production desk as a sub-editor and also as a writer, covering a whole range of sports.