Dipika Pallikal knows a thing or two about 'mom guilt', having left her kids at home to chase an Asian Games medal.
On Thursday, moments after winning a maiden gold medal in mixed doubles at the continental showpiece, the veteran India squash player called on all the mothers to overcome the feeling of guilt and take time off to follow their dreams.
Sacrifices and return to sport
"We sacrificed a lot of things but that does not mean that we must give up on our dreams. It is important for women to keep empowered and also know that it is also all right to take time off to do what you love to do," said Pallikal, who had take a four year break from the sport to start her family.
Pallikal and Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu beat Malaysia's Aifa Binti Azman and Mohammad Syafiq Bin Mohd Kamal 11-10 11-10 in the final on Thursday.
Role model for young female athletes
"It is all right to have kids and come back to the sport. I know the guilt will always be there. I am feeling the guilt of leaving my kids for two weeks," said the mother of twin boys.
"I know that when they grow up they will know that my mum was not holidaying in Hangzhou but working to win a medal for the country and for them."
She said she is happy that "people can look up to me and know that you can still have a career when you have kids".
Asked if the postponement of the Asian Games did affect her, Pallikal said, "It was important for me to stay fit. It was very hard for me to have lost my way and come back and to get fit and match fit.
"But, I was surrounded by the right people at the right time."
Partnership with Harinder Sandhu
On her partnership with Sandhu, she said, "We have grown up together being squash players. We are always hanging out together, during training, during tournaments and just trying to make memories together.
"So we got that email, saying that Harinder and Dipika are going to play in the doubles together, both started that day.
"I don't think we both believed that we could break, but we want to put in the hard work and whatever happens will happen. It just turned out to be an unbelievable tournament for us."