Carla Krizanic: Elite-Athlete-Mother

Commonwealth and World Champion lawn bowler Carla Krizanic recently claimed gold at the 2021 Australian Champion of Champions at Broadbeach Bowls Club.

On a tense final day of competition, she recorded a stunning three wins to leapfrog from third to first to win the two-day event, joining Dawn Hayman as the only two-time women winners of the event.

The 2021 event was originally scheduled for last November when Carla was 34 weeks pregnant, however the postponement meant her preparations were very different to what she anticipated, with her four-month-old baby to care for. 

Once upon a time, motherhood meant the end of a professional sporting career for female athletes. But as women's sport accelerates, women are no longer having to sacrifice an elite sporting career to become a mother. We spoke to Carla about balancing her careers as an elite lawn bowler and nurse, with her role as a Mum to two active sons.

VIS: You are an athlete, nurse and the Mum of two boys – what does a typical day in your week look like?

CK: It’s safe to say we don’t really have a typical day; every time I think we have a routine it gets thrown up in the air. Most days we attend either rhyme time, swimming lessons or a trip to the park. I’ve already learnt that boys destroy the house if you leave them inside so we head out most days for some sort of outside activity. I’m on maternity leave at the moment and feel like I’m already flat out so not sure how life will work when I eventually return to work. I try and head down for training after hubby gets home from work a couple nights a week. Thursday’s my oldest goes to day care so I attempt to time the baby’s nap with a training session at the club. It’s safe to say that I have a lot less time to train than previously but it’s made me focus a lot more when I get there. I’ve had to be creative; I recently made a change to my delivery but my husband was away for a week in a lead up to an event so my toddler and I bowled numerous bowls down the hallway so that I could imprint the change in my brain and make it a habit before the competition.

VIS: How did you cope with all the physical changes during your pregnancies?

CK: I was super lucky to be very healthy during both pregnancies and work right up until 38 weeks. Also playing a low impact sport meant that I could keep competing right through my pregnancy and get back on the green fairly quickly afterwards. It really is amazing watching how your body changes to accommodate a human growing inside of it, sure does take a lot out of you though. At the time I’d be counting down the week until I could breathe a deep breath without a baby in the way but now I kind of miss that experience.

VIS: What is the best part of motherhood/how has becoming a Mum changed you?

CK: The best part is watching them experience the world and the excitement they get when they learn something new. And the cuddles, my hearts bursts when my toddler snuggles in for a cuddle or my 4-month-old falls asleep in my arms. It has absolutely changed me, my world was all about me before they came along, I was always focused on my own goals and ambitions and now my focus has totally changed. I feel that as a Mum I’ve become a stronger and more confident person and I hope this enables me to help navigate the world better for my boys.

VIS: How are you navigating the ‘new normal’ when it comes to balancing time at home with your family, work and the demands of elite sport?

CK: I’m probably navigating it pretty poorly at the moment, I’m definitely still trying to find my groove. I’ve taken a step back from international duties at the moment and made myself unavailable for the Commonwealth Games. It broke my heart as I feel I still have a lot to give but I knew I couldn’t commit 100% for myself and team when I had such a little man at home. I’m trying to not stress about all the demands and just enjoy the boys, they are babies for such a short time and it’s safe to say I’m not getting too old for bowls. It’s one of the bonuses of the sport I play. In the back of my mind I can’t wait to put the green and gold back on though later in the year when I head to the World Champion of Champions. In lawn bowls we can compete in something basically every week of the year. I’m really trying to look ahead at the calendar and prioritise some events rather than playing in everything.

VIS: How do you practice self-care as a Mum?

CK: I try and still do all the things I have always enjoyed even if it’s a bit slower with the boys. I love getting out in the garden, going walking, camping and just wandering down the street for a coffee. I think being self-aware of when I’m burning out and getting on top of it quickly is important as well. Sometimes you need time to yourself which is rare when you have two little tackers and a husband that travels for work. My Mum and sister are a fantastic support though, and I know they are not far away if I need a break.

VIS: How has the VIS supported you throughout your career?

CK: I’ve been lucky to have VIS support for almost a decade now. Knowing the support is there is very reassuring. I love how varied the support has been over the years from help navigating University whilst competing to advice on breastfeeding whilst competing. I’ve found having access to a sports psychologist in my early international career was fundamental to the success I’ve had since, without the VIS there is no way I would have had this help and got to where I am today.

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