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Olympian Melissa Bishop-Nriagu opens up about 2019 season, recovery and Tokyo 2020

Olympic track-and-field 800-metre runner Melissa Bishop-Nriagu says it wasn't easy making the decision to cut her 2019 athletic season short. 

Earlier this week, Bishop-Nriagu announced she would cut her season short due to injuries

Olympic track-and-field 800-metre runner Melissa Bishop-Nriagu says it wasn't easy making the decision to cut her 2019 athletic season short. 2:23

Olympic track-and-field 800-metre runner Melissa Bishop-Nriagu says it wasn't easy making the decision to cut her 2019 athletic season short. 

But after consulting with her support team — which includes doctors, therapists, coaches, as well as her husband — the 31-year-old made the "tough call" to end her season on Aug. 24.

Bishop-Nriagu said the decision was a result of her returning to athletics too soon after giving birth to her daughter, Corinne.

"I couldn't train all the way through pregnancy running anyway, I did a lot of cross training during pregnancy," she said. "The fitness came back quickly, but I was just plagued with a lot of injuries, and that's not something I'm used to."

According to Bishop-Nriagu, her bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments weren't ready "for the load" she needed them to withstand. 

"I'm used to having a very strong, healthy body, and if injury comes up it's kind of gone in to days," she said. "That wasn't the case this time. It's been hard to manage, but it's been a lesson learned, and I hope that I'm stronger coming out of this."

As a professional athlete who relies on her sport as a source of income, Bishop-Nriagu said she felt stressed about returning to running. 

"This is our livelihood," she said. "What we're doing in the sport, this is how we make a living. And I know women need more than a year to come back. It takes time."

Bishop-Nriagu shared that she's spoken with a number of women athletes who have expressed concerns about retaining sponsors during and after pregnancy.

She said she was scared about telling her sponsors, because she wasn't certain that she'd be able to maintain her affiliations. 

Though her sponsors were "all on board," she said "there hasn't always been that support for women in sport taking some time off for pregnancy."

"There's a lot of fear surrounding that women in athletics and in sport don't get maternity leave," she said. "And I think that's something that we need to actually strive for in this country ... granting women who are in sport maternity leave."

As for other women worried about life after pregnancy, Bishop-Nriagu said each woman's journey is unique. 

"You journey is your own, you will get back there no matter how slow or fast it takes," she said. "It's going to take a long time and a lot of work for some people, and for other it may just happen quickly."

Your journey is your own ...- Melissa Bishop-Nriagu

"Don't make the journey so hard on yourself. Enjoy it."

Bishop-Nriagu said taking time off is also necessary to achieve her ultimate goal of competing — and placing — at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. 

"I want to be on the podium. I want to run another Canadian record. I have a lot of boxes to check," she said. "And I think if we can give ourselves a full year lead-up going into Tokyo, that would be our best bet and safest bet for ourselves."

With files from Chris Ensing

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