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Rio 2016: Meet the parents who give up so much for Olympic dream

Image copyright Helen Downie

Parenthood, it is said, is about sacrifice. Few will appreciate this more than the parents of Team GB's young athletes.

With the Olympic Games opening in Rio on Friday, there will be some chewed nails and racing hearts as mums and dads hold their breath to see whether the years of early starts and thousands of miles clocked up will be rewarded on a world stage.


Jane and Mark Renshaw - 'It's going to kill me'

Image copyright Jane Renshaw

Jane Renshaw's routine for five days a week, every week, for about six years was to get up at 4:30am to take Molly to the pool for training.

Molly would then do six hours at school, before Jane took her back to the pool, sandwich-in-hand, from 5pm to 7pm.

"I can remember thinking back, probably when she was about 12 or 13 that I can't do this for the next six years - it's going to absolutely kill me," she told Radio 5 live.

"But you sort of get through it and then it becomes routine, and once it's routine, it becomes a lot easier to do. I was just getting up. She was the one that was doing the hard work."

She says she could "see something was there" in her daughter, and felt that while Molly was willing to put in the hard work, she should be there to help.

Image copyright Reuters

Of accusations of being a pushy parent, she says there's a fine line between being pushy and helping them achieve their ambitions - "you've just got to grin and bear it".

Now 20, Molly can drive and lives close to the pool where she trains.

Next week, her parents, brother and uncle will cheer her on as she competes in the breaststroke in her first Olympic Games.

Jane says the nerves are bad enough in regular competitions, and can't imagine how she will feel at the Olympics. "They'll definitely be a few bitten nails."

· Molly swims in the Women's 100m breaststroke - Sunday, 7 August, and the Women's 200m breaststroke - Wednesday, 10 August


Helen Downie - 'I'll cry when they're marching'

Image copyright PA

Helen, a mother of five, never had any sporting ambitions for Becky or her younger sister Ellie, but it turned out both had drive and determination, and were "extra bendy".

Becky, she tells the Radio Times, was always doing backflips in car parks and restaurants, so she took her to gym lessons at the age of seven. As soon as Ellie could walk, she was enrolled in lessons too.

"When Becky started I didn't think she'd ever get as far as she has, I thought it was just a hobby," she said.

"But when I went to her first competition she was actually really good, which surprised me, and she just got better and better. She's always had a will to win. Neither of them likes losing at all," she said.

Of their selection for the Games, she said: "Ellie got her phone call before Becky, which was hard because I wasn't with them - they were in the gym.

"Ellie rang me and said: "I've made it!" And I said: "What about Becky?", and she said: "Oh, she hasn't had a call yet.

"Then Becky came on the phone and burst into tears - it was a big relief."

Helen, from Nottingham, will be in Rio to cheer on Becky, now 24, and Ellie, 17.

Image copyright Helen Downie

"I'll cry when they're marching," she said.

"You just can't believe they're in front of so many people and you just want them to be happy and not stuff up their five minutes of fame.

"I get nervous and it's really strange to put into words. I'm not overly emotional, but this brings emotions to the surface that I've never felt before."

· Becky and Ellie compete in the uneven bars, beam, vault, team all-round, floor exercise and individual all-round events on Sunday, 7 August


Caroline Peaty - 'I was so tired all the time'

Image copyright AP

Caroline Peaty has sacrificed holidays abroad and conquered a fear of driving to help her son to the top.

Adam Peaty's fear of water as a child was so severe that he didn't even like baths or showers. Now, at 21, he holds three swimming world records, and is the reigning Commonwealth, European and World champion at 100m breaststroke.

"It was really hard going, I'd have given up many a time," Caroline, from Uttoxeter, in Staffordshire, told the Radio Times.

"I'd get up at four in the morning, drive him 40 minutes to Derby, sit and wait two hours while he was training, or go to Tesco, then drive him back again and do a full day's work as a nursery manager. Then we'd do it again in the evening.

"I've always hated driving. My husband doesn't drive, and I was so tired all the time. But Adam's willpower was stronger than mine and he'd say, 'Come on Mum, no staying in bed.'

This continued for three-and-a-half years with some occasional help from kind neighbours, until Adam passed his driving test.

His coach, Melanie Marshall, told the magazine that without the support of his parents, Adam wouldn't be going to Rio.

"All those journeys to Derby and back, day after day, were a huge stress for the family. They didn't realise how talented he was - they thought I was some crazy coach telling them to take him swimming at 4am. His family has been a huge part of his success."

Adam still lives at home, where he has banned any talk of swimming.

This weekend, his parents, Caroline and Mark, and girlfriend will watch in Rio as he tries to add an Olympic title to the long list of accomplishments.

For Caroline, the journey to Rio will be as exciting as the race.

"I've never flown before, never been further than France," she said. "I've always taken my leave around Adam's races in this country and I love to watch him, but this is going to be a shock."

· Adam competes in the Men's 100m breaststroke on Saturday, 6 August


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