TORONTO - When hurdling mom Priscilla Lopes-Schliep steps on the track at the London Olympics, she'll be running for mothers everywhere.
The 29-year-old from Whitby, Ont., is gunning for a gold medal in London after taking a year off to have her first child — daughter Nataliya — and happily shoulders her role as an inspiration to other moms.
"Being a new mom, training, having health be my No. 1 thing, taking care of my body. . . now I can reach out to moms, and people who say, 'How do you do it?'" Lopes-Schliep said. "It makes me more determined, I'm not only doing it for myself, but I'm doing for the moms, to show that this is something that we can do."
Lopes-Schliep captured bronze in the 100-metre hurdles at the 2008 Beijing Games. She was ranked No. 1 in the world in 2010 and capped that season by claiming the prestigious Diamond League title before becoming pregnant.
She aims to be back on the podium in London, a lofty goal that wouldn't be possible, she said, without her huge support group. Her mom spends almost every night at the downtown condo where the hurdler lives with her husband Bronsen Schliep, who's doing his residency in dentistry.
"I'm able to go train and work hard and push through at practice and get the rest. As soon as I come home I'm playing with Nataliya and enjoying her," Lopes-Schliep said.
"It would be really hard to be at the level I'm at because training for the Olympics is no game, you have to train hard, you have to work hard, you have to give it everything you have, because I only have 12-and-a-half seconds to make or break."
Lopes-Schliep has teamed up with Pampers, the first Canadian athlete to partner with the iconic baby brand. The hurdler was doing the media rounds Wednesday in Toronto to launch "O Canada, Baby" — featuring a version of the national anthem performed entirely by babies.
Parents can record their babies making cooing sounds and upload their footage to a website. Each video will be edited into a segment of the national anthem.
Lopes-Schliep was happily reunited with her own baby Tuesday after a training camp in Phoenix.
"I came in the door and she had the biggest smile on her face," Lopes-Schliep said. "It was hard being away from her, even though it was only eight days. I was like 'Bronsen, I want you to send me a picture every day, I want to see her on Skype.' That helped. But to walk in the door and see her smile like that from ear to ear and now she's starting to lunge for people. She just dove for me hands.
"She's such a delight, such a happy baby."
Lopes-Schliep has raced once since Nataliya's birth, finishing second at an indoor meet in Sherbrooke, Que., that was more just to get her mind and her body back in racing mode.
She'll open her outdoor season at a meet in Guadeloupe, early next month.