SASS Talk: Drama almost sinks Kitchen’s Olympic dream

LockerRoom founder Suzanne McFadden and Olympic commentator Sarah Cowley Ross host the episodic podcast “SASS Talk,” sparking new conversations about women’s sport and the major issues women face.

LISTEN to Episode 5 below or via your favorite podcast app, including Apple and Spotify.

For 35-year-old Justina Kitchen, mother of two school-age daughters, there are few things she enjoys more than breaking stereotypes on the water.

The New Zealand kitefoiler has battled through two unsuccessful Olympic campaigns and a devastating knee injury to finally earn her place at the Games, and will compete in Marseille as kitefoiling makes its Olympic debut.

When racing in the fastest sailing class, where she flies over the water at up to 75 km/h, Kitchen often surprises her rivals, she tells the SASS Talk podcast.

“It's so much fun when you come to these events and sit on the beach and talk to everyone that's there, you know, 18-year-old guys or even people you train with,” she says.

“And then you go out there and have a really good fight with them – or maybe even beat them… then they find out you're a 35-year-old mother from New Zealand and they're absolutely ecstatic.”

They would also be amazed to know how quickly Kitchen recovered from a serious knee injury sustained while training in England last September that nearly ended her Olympic dream for the third time.

Struck by a gust, her board tipped over at full speed and her knee was dislocated backwards. Unable to kick and in stabbing pain, Kitchen slid underwater until her Australian training partner pulled her out.

Kitchen's first thought was that her Olympic campaign in Paris was over. “It was absolutely devastating,” she says. But at home, she dismissed opinions that she needed surgery – which meant a year off the water – and worked tirelessly to be back on the water three months later.

“The Games are only a year away and you know you've come so far and made so much progress. And it's not just you who has sacrificed and given up, but there's a big group of people around you. My family, my kids, my husband,” Kitchen says. “When you're not just for yourself, it drives you a lot more.”

Kitchen also talks about the influence of her father, Olympic gold and silver medalist Rex Seller, on her career.

In this episode of SASS Talk, we also talk about periods and whether period underwear alleviates the anxiety and stress women face when exercising during menstruation.

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