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The 2015 world silver medallist Bishop-Nriagu (right) has been pleasantly surprised how quickly she bounced back from pregnancy.Alastair Grant/The Associated Press

It was an endearing sight that played out at the University of Windsor Stadium numerous times during Melissa Bishop-Nriagu’s comeback.

The 800-metre runner pounding around the blue and gold Alumni Field track. Husband Osi Nriagu making a diagonal beeline across the infield, one hand pushing a stroller, the other holding a stopwatch.

Bishop-Nriagu will be gunning to regain her national title at the Canadian track and field championships this week after sitting out last season to give birth to daughter Corinne, who turned a year old earlier this month.

Becoming a mom has given her a different perspective, better balance and made her more efficient in her training. And Bishop-Nriagu says she’ll be the faster for it.

“I don’t think I’m at my best yet,” the Eganville, Ont., native said. “I think being a mom, I have a little more strength now. I don’t know what it is but when you – and I’m speaking to the moms here – when you have a baby, you’re just extra strong and I’m really excited to see what else we can do leading up to [the 2020 Olympics in] Tokyo.”

The 2015 world silver medallist was pleasantly surprised how quickly she bounced back from pregnancy. She started doing alternate run/walk workouts six weeks after Corinne was born. She had zero trouble losing the extra baby weight, in fact she’s had to work to keep weight on.

“I lost it so fast nursing and training,” she said. “As a mom, your time is so focused on your child, sometimes feeding [yourself] and sleeping. Those aren’t my priorities any more, and that’s been the struggle, keeping my needs as an athlete a priority, but also Corinne’s. I have to do both if I want to succeed in this career.”

Her return to the track has been a group effort. Her long-time coach Dennis Fairall, who was inducted into Athletics Canada’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday, is battling progressive supranuclear palsy, a degenerative brain disease. Fairall still attends workouts, weather permitting, his wife Janet unloading his wheelchair from their black SUV.

Trent Stellingwerff, a Victoria-based sports physiologist, is writing her training programs. Her husband, who took paternity leave (because maternity leave for athletes doesn’t exist), has been her timer.

“Often times I would be running around the track and I’d see him pushing this red stroller across the field trying to get my splits at 200 [the 200-metre mark],” Bishop-Nriagu said with a laugh.

Sports is full of successful mom stories. Tennis superstar Serena Williams is among the most recent high-profile athletes to return to competition after giving birth. Nia Ali, girlfriend of Canadian sprint star Andre De Grasse, is running the 100-metre hurdles at the U.S. championships this weekend. Ali and De Grasse became parents to daughter Yuri last summer, Ali’s second child.

Bishop-Nriagu, who turns 31 next week, had a solid start to her comeback, running two minutes 1.10 seconds in an 800 in June, but has since been dealing with a minor hamstring injury. She’ll battle last year’s national champion Lindsey Butterworth at Claude Robillard Stadium on Saturday night.

That race will go a long way to determining what the next few weeks will look like. Bishop-Nriagu, who was fourth at the 2016 Rio Olympics, doesn’t yet have a fast enough time to secure a lane in major international meets such as the Diamond League series.

“It’s nearly impossible,” said Bishop-Nriagu, whose Canadian record is 1:57.01 set in 2017. “The big meets I want to be in are hard [to get into]. As soon as I can dip under two [minutes], I might have a few more opportunities. I’m ready to go anywhere I need to go to race.”

Bishop-Nriagu’s event is one of the most controversial in track and field. She deftly steered through questions Thursday about South African Caster Semenya, the gold medallist in Rio.

Semenya owns the world’s fastest time this season (1:54.98) while an international court continues to debate her future in the sport. A Swiss Supreme Court has ruled the three-time world champion is eligible to compete while considering her appeal against a new IAAF rule capping testosterone levels in women’s events from the 400 to the mile.

“I haven’t been on the international scene yet this year. I can’t answer that for you yet, I need to get over there and race and be in the mix again to answer that,” Bishop-Nriagu said, when asked how the Semenya case affects her event.

Bishop-Nriagu was also asked twice in interviews Thursday if she’d considered retiring since her daughter was born.

Her answer was a definitive no.

“I’m ready to run fast again, I still love it, I still have that drive … I’m still on this straight and narrow path of my goals of Tokyo 2020, and Corinne is a boost, she’s an absolute boost to be around,” she said.

“It puts life into perspective, track’s not my whole world any more, I have a baby girl home waiting for me and it has been so fabulous, she’s been such a lift in our life and track is still going to be there, and I know she is always going to be there no matter what. It absolutely is different, but it’s a good balance.”

Plus, what better role model is there than a strong woman pursuing her dreams?

“I want [Corinne] to know that being a girl doesn’t give you limitations,” Bishop-Nriagu told Athletics Canada recently. “I want her to see her mom walking out the door every day to do what she loves the most, to inspire her to do something that she’s really passionate about and loves to do.”

This week’s national meet determines Canada’s team for the world championships in October in Doha, Qatar.

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