A DESIRE to start a family has led Alicia Lucas (Quirk) to rule herself out of next year's Tokyo Olympics.
Wagga's golden girl is pregnant and has moved to Japan to be alongside her husband Matt, who is playing professional rugby in Japan.
The postponement of the Olympic Games this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, forced Lucas to reassess her plans and led to the decision to leave the Australian women's sevens squad and start a family.
Lucas, Wagga's first ever Olympic gold medallist, admits she was 'heartbroken' when the games were postponed but explained that ultimately the decision to choose family over footy was a 'no brainer'.
"For us it was a bit of a pros and cons kind of discussion, as a lot of family discussions probably are," Lucas told Kurt Fearnley's podcast Tiny Island.
"But I guess Matt and I have lived apart for three years. One of the benefits of coronavirus impacting everyone's lives, one of the benefits for us was that it brought us together and we got to spend the most time that we ever have together in three years.
"We had five months together and I guess when you spend time together, you fall pregnant. I guess that's what happens.
"We decided we didn't want to put our lives on hold anymore. We might as well try. There's obviously been a lot of recent research come out about struggles that professional female athletes have with conceiving and I didn't want to delay that time anymore. I thought we may as well see how my body responds and we're so fortunate that we fell pregnant in that time."
Lucas said her plan had always been to win a second gold medal at Tokyo then move on to the next phase in her life, starting a family.
But COVID-19, and the postponement of the games, forced her and her husband to reassess.
"It was originally our plan to try and start a family after Tokyo, if it had happened, so when it was delayed and pushed back, the pros and cons then became we have to weigh up whether we want to potentially miss the Olympics and be happy and content with having a baby, instead of a gold medal, and the choice was a no brainer," she said.
"It was, yes, that's what I wanted to do, at that time. So we thought well, we're going to try and then the other choice was if we didn't fall pregnant, then I said I didn't want to not miss it. I didn't want to miss it just because I was sitting around home doing nothing. It was either, I'm having a baby or I'm winning a gold medal. That was kind of how we looked at it.
"I always kind of envisaged, my big goal was to finish 2021 with two gold medals and then start a family, and just roll into the next transition of life. Obviously one part of it wasn't to be, but that didn't mean I couldn't start the next part.
"I didn't realise out of something that made me feel so down and sad and really left me heartbroken by Tokyo not happening, that I could then also end up being so happy with something else happening in my life as well and making me feel so at peace about not having the other part."
Lucas, winner of The Daily Advertiser's Senior Sportsperson of the Year award in 2011, made the stunning switch from World Cup winner in touch football to rugby sevens in 2012.
It proved a masterstroke as Lucas went onto establish herself as one of the finest rugby sevens players in the world. Her biggest moment came when she was part of the Australian team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Lucas also represented Australia at the 2018 Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast, where she and her Australian teammates won silver.
The 28-year-old admits she was rocked when plans for a second Olympic Games appearance were thrown into chaos but some time away from the sport helped clear her focus.
"At first I was gutted because I was like, that's not in my diary. I'm so planned and so particular and I know every day in the calendar off by heart so I was gutted," she said.
"There was a part of me that first thought, shit, I don't know if I'm going to be able to hold on to get there. So as much as I wanted to be, and I wanted the fairytale, I didn't know if I was going to be able to get there.
"The coaching staff at Rugby Australia were so great and they gave me time away to have a break and really helped me figure out in my own way without being in that team environment still and having to commit to training. I could go away and be with friends and family and experience a bit of the other side. Experience the other side of the rainbow after professional sport. And I loved it. I loved being with my family and just being with my husband.
"I didn't realise how hard it had been, in a way, and always had banked that emotion. How nice it was to go for breakfast every day when we wanted to, all the small things like that, hang out with my nieces and nephews, be with my brother or sister, or whatever it was when I wanted to do. Catch up with friends for coffees and I realised I love that and I was sad that I had missed out on that a little bit but I knew that I was so happy with what I'd achieved.
"I was okay with either having that period of time and enjoying it, loving it and knowing it's only one more year until I get to experience that full time, if we didn't fall pregnant, but if we did fall pregnant then how good that I've had that special one-on-one time with family and then we're going to start our own family and I'll get to watch and support my best friends win another (gold medal)."
Lucas revealed the postponement of the Olympic Games left her wrestling with a mixture of emotions from hurt to guilt as she struggled to determine her purpose, post rugby.
"I think that's why it was so earth-shattering in it being cancelled because it was like, what have I been doing for the past four years then. If you're going to take that away from me. I couldn't comprehend," she said.
"I was fortunate that it kind of got cancelled then me and Matt met up straight away so I had a bit of a honeymoon phase to just be happy that I was with him. But it was about three or four weeks after that it really rattled me and really rocked me.
"I was like what am I doing with my life, what am I? If the Olympics don't happen, what am I, what's my purpose this year, what's driving me, what's motivating me and if there's a chance that they might not even happen next year, you put everything into it so it felt like I had lost a bit of my identity in a way.
"It was hard but I also felt guilty being sad about it because it was a global pandemic and there was people suffering, people dying, sickness, illness, people sacrificing their jobs, their livelihoods, their health to help others and I had got to be with my family and my loved ones and got to be around people who were there to support me. But you felt guilty being sad about your own situation because of everything else that was going on.
"That lack of control was really hard so I think taking control of my own journey next was a big focus point to be able to get back, instead of putting everything into being an athlete, I put everything into being me again. And figuring out what I actually want to achieve and have purpose in and it always came back to I want to be a mum, that's all I wanted to do post footy."