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If you’re racing USA Triathlon’s Age Group National Championships this weekend in Burlington, Vermont, look out for Susan Williams—she’s the only American to ever win a medal in triathlon at the Olympics and she’ll be competing in the 40-44 age group division on Saturday.
“I’m a coach now, and 10 of my athletes qualified and eight are here. I want to support them,” Williams, 42, said. “And I thought, ‘If I’ going to go, I might as well just race.’ I love the sport and participating. I’m also kind of thinking it would be nice to go to New Zealand.”
If Williams finishes in the top 18 in her age group, she qualifies to go to the 2012 Age Group World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand.
Williams, who won bronze at the 2004 Athens Olympics, now coaches with Elite Multisport Coaching, which is based out of Littleton, Colorado.
Elite Multisport puts together weekly swims, rides and runs for its local athletes as well as offers online coaching. Williams, who swam collegiately at the University of Alabama, also coaches a master’s swim club a few mornings a week.
Besides coaching, Williams is a mom to three children, who are ages 10, 4 and almost 1.
By the look of Williams—who is fit and trim—you’d never know that she just had a baby. She stays fit by getting in her training when she can, which can take a little creativity, she says.
“I do a have a jogger. My older daughter and four-year-old can hang out while I push my 1-year-old. My mom has been spending the summer with us, as well, and she’s been great with watching the kids. I try to fit it in what I can. If I do it, it’s great. If not I get grumpy,” she said.
Williams actually won her bronze medal three and a half years after she had her first child.
“You’re not sure how you’re going to bounce back [after you have the baby],” Williams said. “But you really come back stronger. I don’t know if it’s all physiological. Once you have a child it puts a better perspective on what’s important. I trained hard and triathlon was still important, but I could be a little more relaxed about it. I could go to a race and my daughter would be watching, and whether I won or lost, she was still going to be there.”
She also jokes that remembering the pain of childbirth helped her get through some tough workouts.
“Having a baby was a little painful,” Williams said. “A hard workout is nothing compared to that.”
Prior to becoming a professional triathlete, Williams was an aerospace engineer, a job she held for nine years before retiring in 2003.
“With the child, the job and the training, I couldn’t do them all. So I got rid of the least fun one,” she said.
Williams says she still does the sport because she loves it, and she’s thankful she’s healthy and able to do it.
“We [she and her athletes] appreciate the fact that we are here and healthy. I think a lot of times we take that for granted,” Williams said.