Chelsea Sodaro was full of praise for the PTO Maternity and Paternity policy after winning the IRONMAN World Championships 2022 at Kona just 18-months after giving birth.
The PTO Paid Maternity policy meant that Sodaro was eligible for 15-months of paid Maternity support, during which her PTO World ranking was fixed, and she received financial support.
The greatest gift
After crossing the line in disbelief at her suprise victory, Sodaro went straight to her husband and child in an emotional scene.
“My mind is a little bit blown right now. This is the culmination of things being right in my life and having perspective,” Sodaro said at the finish line.
This is freakin’ incredible, but the greatest gift at the end of the finish line is my little 18-month-old.”
“This is a life highlight that I’ll never forget. I’m pretty stoked that I think I maybe get to take the rest of the year off and be a mom for a month or so.”
Incredibly, Sodaro became only the second mum to win the World Championship in Kona, after Natascha Badmann, and the PTO hopes she will not be the last thanks to their policy.
“On behalf of the PTO, I wanted to offer our heartfelt congratulations to Chelsea on her landmark World Championship win in Kona,” said CEO Sam Renouf.
“She may have been a dark horse going into the race, but the manner of her win was emphatic and I’m so pleased for her and her lovely family.
“When you consider what she’s achieved only 18 months after having her daughter Skylar, this has to be counted as one of the top results in the sport.”
No need to choose
After a solid swim and bike, Sodaro ran herself to the title with one of the fastest marathon runs in World Championship history, running a 2:51:45 to win by almost eight minutes over Lucy Charles-Barclay.
“I found out about the maternity policy when I was five or six months pregnant, so it wasn’t a factor that went into my decision making when I got pregnant,” Sodaro explained.
“But when I found out about the policy, it actually made me quite emotional. Because it’s 2022 but we still have so far to go in the way that we support women [in sport].
“But this initiative says the PTO cares about women, it cares about female athletes, it cares about keeping us in the sport and seeing us through all the phases of our athletic career.
“Women peak in our mid to late thirties in this long stuff, and so we need the opportunities to be able to stay in the sport.
“We shouldn’t have to choose between being world class athletes and being moms. We can do both. We just need some support.”
“It’s really hard to get back to racing after having a baby, go figure,” Sodaro joked in the post-race press conference.
I’m not going to stop talking about it until things are more equitable.
But as she went on she grew more emotional, and it became clear just how important an issue this is, and has been, for Sodaro.
“I started back on a training programme when I was six-weeks post-partum and it was really, really hard.
“Actually, training since having my daughter has been very, very challenging, it’s taken a massive team effort and investment from my family so I can train like a professional athlete.
“I deal with all the same things that any woman would deal with when trying to return to exercise post-partum.
“I’m not going to stop talking about it until things are more equitable, until women feel confident and comfortable that they can choose both family and sport at the highest level.”