Since the Paris Olympic Games in the 1900’s, mother’s have been allowed to compete in their chosen Olympic sport. Since this time we have had some incredible athletes prove to the world that motherhood is no barrier to achieving their goals.
For the first time in history, Tokyo 2020 Olympic games were the first-ever gender-balanced games with 49% of all athletes female up from 45% from previous games. The Paralympics has also seen a 10.9% rise to 40.5% in female athletes for the Tokyo Paralympics.
Of these female athletes, many are mothers, some pregnant and some breastfeeding. Pregnant athletes have thrived in the past, including Italian speed skater Martina Valcepina, who won the bronze in Sochi 2014 while pregnant with twins. And US volleyball star Kerri Walsh has won 3 gold and 1 bronze medal including London 2012 where she was five weeks pregnant with her third child. Stats from Olympedia.org states that 22 pregnant women have competed in an Olympics while pregnant, including Malaysian shooter Nur Suryani Mohd Taibi, who was eight months pregnant at the 2012 London Olympics.
Feeling inspired, we've highlighted 3 athletes each with differing stories who have taken on motherhood, beaten challenges and inspired women and mothers around the globe that gender and motherhood have no boundaries!
MEET VALERIE ADAMS
Valerie Adams is one of New Zealand's most accomplished athletes competing in numerous world titles for Shot Put. She has successfully taken away 56 wins at elite level championships and has attended 5 Olympic games winning medals at 4 of them.
Between 2006 and 2012 Valerie received NZ's sportswomen of the year 7 times in a row. In 2016 Valerie married her childhood sweetheart Gabriel Price and they had their daughter, Kimoana in 2017 and their son, Kepaleli in 2019. In an interview with Sky Sports Locker Room, Valerie revealed her lead up to the Tokyo games as a 36-year-old athlete hasn't been easy...
“Mentally I can do it, it’s just the physical side is my biggest challenge. I don’t have the body of a 23-year-old. My second child has turned one, and both of my kids were born through the sunroof [caesarean section]. All those things take their toll.
“It takes a special kind of person to do it - someone who is very strong mentally to be able to overcome whatever’s put in front of you.
“But if I can qualify for my fifth Olympic Games and haven’t really pushed to my limit yet, why not? I still haven’t been beaten by any other New Zealander. No one is coming to take over the throne. If I had some young buster coming and kicking my arse, I’d be like ‘Ok girl’.”
Valerie is an inspiration to every mama out there. Nothing is holding this mama back. In her lead up to the Tokyo games, not only did Valerie keep up an intense training regime, but she also successfully completed IVF after finding out she was riddled with endometriosis which resulted in her conceiving 2 beautiful children. Valerie was crowned a dame in 2017 for her services to Athletics.
" You don’t want to get to the end of your career and look back and regret anything. You can’t turn back time" - Dame Valerie Adams
Read more about Valerie's road to maternity HERE
MEET ALLYSON FELIX
Allyson is one of the USA's most accomplished athletes of all time. In her fifth Olympic games, the 35-year-old American took her tally to 11 medals which leaves her as the most decorated woman in Olympic track and field history, and with more athletics medals than any other American. To make this accomplishment even better, Allyson broke this record while competing as a mother at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
Allyson became a professional track and field athlete when she signed a contract with Nike in 2010 after learning about their principles on empowering girls and women through sport and leadership.
In 2018 Allyson became pregnant with her first child and what should have been a celebrated and exciting time of her life, turned out to be a terrifying and challenging one. Nike's thoughts of empowering girls and women suddenly changed and because Allyson was pregnant they were only willing to pay her 70% of her full contract. The pay did not bother Allyson, however, the enduring status quo around maternity did.
Allyson spoke up alongside other female athletes and their voices were heard around the world. After broad public outcry and a congressional inquiry, Nike announced a new maternity policy for all sponsored athletes guaranteeing an athlete’s pay and bonuses for 18 months around pregnancy. After these actions, Nike lead an assortment of companies that changed their policies regarding maternity pay and benefits.
"I’ve always known that expressing myself could hurt my career. I’ve tried not to show emotion, to anticipate what people expect from me and to do it. I don’t like to let people down. But you can’t change anything with silence." - Allyson Felix
Read Allyson's full story HERE
MEET KIM GAUCHER
In the recent Tokyo Olympic games, Veteran Canadian basketball player Kim Gaucher and mother to 3-month-old daughter whom she was still breastfeeding had to make a post on social media to make her voice heard.
The IOC had told her she was not allowed to bring her daughter to the games due to the pandemic and had to make a decision on whether to compete or stay home with her daughter. Her post attracted international attention and forced the IOC to re-think their decision and allowed Kim to bring her daughter to the games and successfully continue her breastfeeding journey and her sporting career.
There were numerous other mothers including US marathon runner Aliphine Tuliamuk who faced the same challenges and in the end was able to attend the games and show the world and her daughter how incredible women are!