Q&A WITH… NOVLENE WILLIAMS-MILLS

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Country: Jamaica

Profession: Athlete

Career highlights:

  • 4x Olympian (2004 – 2016)
  • 3x Olympic silver medallist – 4x400m relay
  • Olympic bronze medallist – 4x400m relay
  • World Championships gold medallist – 4x400m relay
  • 4x World Championships silver medallist – 4x440m relay
  • World Championships bronze medallist – 400m
  • Commonwealth Games gold medallist – 4x400m relay
  • Commonwealth Games silver and bronze medallist – 400m

Novlene is a retired Jamaican athlete who was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2012, a few weeks before the London 2012 Olympics. Despite her diagnosis, she went on to help the Jamaican 4x400m relay team win a silver medal and also placed fifth in the 400m final.  She underwent a mastectomy after the London Games, she has been in remission for over eight years and is now a mother to twin boys.

Congratulations on your twin boys. What has been the most unexpected thing about motherhood so far?

Thank you so much. Motherhood has been a blessing so far. It has its ups and down, and it was interesting trying to figure out the different cry’s when they were much smaller because of course they can’t talk!

But it has not been bad at all. Most people would say that you don’t get too much sleep but I have been sleeping well, and they have been doing pretty good – and now having fun getting into trouble, hahah.

Over the four Olympic Games you have competed in, what has been your favourite Olympic moment?

I have to say 2012. Knowing that I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer showing up on the start line, being able to put my emotions aside, and just focusing to help team Jamaica win a medal in the 4x400m relay. That was very special for me.

The 400m is a tough race! Can you describe what that last 80m of the race feels like?

That’s a really good question! It feels like someone jumps on your back (hahah) and you have to carry them, your butt locks for some time and you are just hoping the finish line will come soon😊.

You describe your cancer scars as your battle scars – what advice do you have for other women who battle with body image after having a mastectomy?

Yes, they are my battle scars, and I am thankful I can share my story with others. My advice would be to love your body. No one has the perfect body and you just have to be confident in yours. I know sometimes you don’t love what you see in the mirror, but someone out there sees you as beautiful and stunning. Don’t try to fit in the box of one size fits all, because it does not work. Don’t compare yourself to others – own your story and your truth because that makes you who you are.

Transitioning out of sport is tough for many athletes, what have you found to be the most challenging part of ‘normal life’?

The days are much longer in term of working. In athletics you have certain times that you are at practice then you are home for the rest of the day, but in normal life you may be at work for 8 hours a day and you don’t get that rest and laying around as you used to. You also now have to do everything for yourself – you don’t have a team anymore doing all the work for you, booking flights getting you in meets and so forth. It is quite an adjustment.

What is the WORST advice you have ever been given?

In terms of the 400m it was how to run it if you are in lane 8 – they said just go out as hard as you can and get everyone to try and catch you. This was from a coach that used to run the 400m, not my coach though!

You are a self-confessed choosy eater. What is your favourite cuisine?

I don’t have one in particular. I like curry goat, oxtail and fish with rice and peas. I stick with my Jamaican food 😊.    

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