The Anaheim 2017 World Weightlifting Champion and Lima 2019 gold medalist became a mother less than a year ago. In an interview with Panam Sports, she details how she balances being a mother and a high-performance athlete, as well as her goals for 2023 and the dream she wants to fulfill together with her daughter Rafaela who accompanies her every day to train.

Every morning Fernanda Valdes, the world and Pan American weightlifting champion of Team Chile, arrives to train at the Weightlifting gym of the Olympic Training Center in Santiago.

She gets out of her vehicle, takes out her bag and her 11-month-old daughter Rafaela from the baby seat in the back. She walks into the weight room puts Rafaela in a crib set up right next to the platform where she trains.

“Rafaelita is my everything. She is my engine, my eyes, my life. She is such a beautiful being. She’s so bright that she makes everyone who sees her happy, and I am very proud to be her mother,” Fernanda Valdes tells Panam Sports.

After a somewhat complicated pregnancy that forced her to stop training ahead of schedule, the beautiful Rafaela was born on May 11, 2022.

“My pregnancy was chaotic. I was thinking of training until I was eight months pregnant, and the truth is that I had to stop after the fourth month. I was vomiting and nauseated every day and I had to stop training. But all the sacrifice was worth it,” says the Pan American Games champion at Lima 2019.

She returned to practice just 15 days after giving birth. However, being alone in the gym without her daughter began to take its toll.

“At first I thought I had postpartum depression, but then I realized that I needed to be with her and I said I’m not going to be further away from her, so I decided that she would accompany me to train. When she started to stand up, we said we must have a crib with all of her toys so that she can be happy and safe in the room,” adds Fernanda.

“In the beginning it was still difficult. It was very invasive. But the truth is that she adapted very well. She doesn’t cry, she’s happy, she enjoys being with the team, and when she arrives, everyone is happy to see her.”

Rafaela represents Fernanda Valdes’ most important motivation for the great challenges she faces in the near future.

“The preparation has not been easy. It has been difficult, but we are doing well, step by step. I am hitting my marks and I am on the right track with my body weight to seek qualification for the Paris Olympic Games and to represent Chile in the best way possible at the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games,” says Team Chile’s weightlifting star.

“My main objectives are to defend my gold medal at the Pan American Games and qualify for the Olympic Games in Paris. And why not think about what we have been dreaming of for so long and that unfortunately we could not achieve in Tokyo, which is a medal at the Olympic Games,” adds the World Champion at Anaheim 2017. “I dream of getting on the podium with my Rafaela. Now I don’t know if they’ll let me, but she would be the happiest of all.”

Lastly, Fernanda, what would you say to female athletes who sometimes fear getting pregnant?

“Fear will always be there. For me, the pregnancy was a wonderful process, I think I would do it again. It is something so beautiful to give life, and even more so when you create a being as beautiful as Rafaelita. I don’t think you have to leave your sport. I’m also bonding with my daughter and now we are one in the gym. My message is don’t be afraid, it’s definitely possible to be a mom and a high-performance athlete. May they be happy, may their babies enjoy themselves to the fullest. Every day is a new learning experience, every day brings a new joy. I am happy and she is my great motivation to continue being a high-performance athlete and a good mother.”