Sam Quek may only be 34 but she’s packed a lot into her life.
Hot on the heels of winning a gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics as part of England’s hockey team, she quickly signed up to I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, where she finished in a very respectable fourth place.
Since her stint in the jungle, the Liverpool-born star’s TV career has gone from strength to strength, and she’s now one of the team captains on the new-look A Question Of Sport, as well as a regular presenter alongside Gethin Jones on Morning Live.
In between all these career achievements, Sam, who is married to property entrepreneur Tom Mairs, 43, has also managed to have two children within the space of just one year.
The star is now mum to Molly, two, and one-year-old Zac, and is the first to admit that she struggles with mum guilt as she balances her blossoming career with looking after her little ones – but she tells us she’s a better mum and wife when she’s working.
We caught up with Sam on Ladies’ Day at Aintree, where she told us about her upcoming role on Eurovision, her desire to do Strictly and battling the baby blues…
Hi Sam! Are you excited about co-hosting the Eurovision Song Contest opening ceremony?
I can’t wait. It will be broadcast on the European Broadcasting Union YouTube channel, and apparently gets 160 million views, so the pressure is on!
Speaking of pressure, you worked on Morning Live up until the day before your son Zac was born, didn’t you?
Yes – he was two weeks early! One of the producers said, “Right, Sam, it’s your last day tomorrow. Make sure you don’t go into labour tonight.” And that was clearly the kiss of death because I woke up with a few pains. Then I started bleeding and panic set in. But my first worry was, “Tom, can you ring my agent and tell him I’m not able to make Morning Live!”
You went back to work two months after he was born. How was that?
I get a lot of mum guilt. They’re only young for so long. I look back at photos, especially of Zac, and I can’t remember the first two months, and then I went back to work eight weeks after giving birth to him.
Did you take him into work with you?
I didn’t, because my husband is fantastic. I was pumping breast milk for about three months with Zac. But mum guilt still exists. Being here [at Aintree], I’m thinking, “OK, I’m going for a drink with some colleagues this afternoon, but I won’t have too many because I want to be on top form for the kids.” It’s constant guilt.
Is there more pressure to keep working when you’re in TV?
You have to strike while the iron is hot in this business. But I also realise that I’m the most dedicated mum I can be, and the happiest wife I can be, when I’m working. I love my independence.
You went back to work quite soon after Molly was born too, didn’t you?
I remember being at baby group with Molly for the first time. I said to the other mums that I would be going back to work in three weeks and they were like,”What, already? Do you not feel guilty?” and I was like, “I wasn’t aware of it until you mentioned it!” People needs to understand that everyone works differently.
A lot of women experience the baby blues after birth…
I definitely had the baby blues. They say it lasts for two or three weeks, but it definitely lasts for two or three months. Sometimes you’re irrational, and sometimes you read into things, and I think that’s probably tiredness as well. You can eliminate every stress in the world, but if you neglect sleep, you cannot function.
You decided to keep your second pregnancy secret for a while. Why was that?
I had my two children in quick succession, but before Molly I had a miscarriage. So I was always very cautious about announcing a pregnancy until I was fully comfortable that everything was OK. Zac came around very quickly.
It sounds like you weren’t quite expecting him…
With Zac, I wasn’t quite ready to be pregnant yet, because I was doing some of the biggest things I’ve done so far in my career, such as covering the Olympics and presenting The One Show. So I probably wasn’t emotionally prepared for a second child. And physically, I had just started to get my body back and I went back to playing hockey. I was fully blessed, but I still felt that, “I’m not ready yet.”
I’m A Celebrity is back on our screens. How did it feel doing such an iconic show straight after the Olympics?
I was so stressed about being relatively unknown and I was thrust into one of the biggest shows, with 13 million viewers a night. I thought, “I have no boobs, should I wear chicken fillets in my bikini?” I was worried and thought, “Do I need to have my eyelashes permed and fake tan and nails?” But before I ventured into the jungle, I went to the Pride of Britain Awards. There was this fabulous young girl, Nikki, who won an award. She has a very serious facial disfigurement, and her message was, “Be proud of who you are.” I was so inspired by her and thought, “I’m being such an idiot worrying about these truly stupid things.”
How are you enjoying being on A Question Of Sport?
To be a captain on the show has been unbelievable. But when I joined, I felt like I had all this pressure on me because it was always like, “What do women know about sport? Get back to the kitchen!” So for the first series, I put a lot of pressure on myself.
Is there anything else you’d love to do career-wise?
I’d love to do Strictly Come Dancing , but I’ve never been asked to do it. It would be a great challenge.
Sam was speaking at the Randox Grand National Women’s Summit. Randox Grand National is sponsored by Randox Health, which promotes preventative healthcare. Visit randox.com
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