As we celebrate Mother’s Day, we’d like to highlight the utter marvelousness of women’s bodies. Here are stories of female athletes who pushed boundaries by competing in their sports while pregnant.
Women have come a long way in shattering the myths that we are the fairer and weaker sex. What better way to illustrate this than to share stories of female athletes who pushed boundaries by competing in their sports while pregnant.
Tennis superstar Serena Williams recently created a lot of buzz when it was revealed that she was two months pregnant when she won the Australian Open competition in January 2017. The 35-year old gave an impressively dominant performance, not losing a single set during the entire tournament. She won against her sister Venus Williams with a score of 6-4, 6-4 in the final.
Serena's snap suggests that she won the Australian Open without dropping a set while pregnant. pic.twitter.com/ltPndJRJBq
— Bryan Armen Graham (@BryanAGraham) April 19, 2017
But Serena is not the only woman who competed at the highest level when they were pregnant. There are several athletes who wowed us with their amazing athleticism, performing intense physical exertions when they are in their supposedly delicate conditions.
American athlete Kerri Walsh was one month pregnant when she competed and won the gold medal in beach volleyball at the 2012 Olympics, though she did not know about the pregnancy until after the Olympics. Kerstin Szymkowiak of Germany won the silver medal in skeleton racing at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Martina Valcepina of Italy was also one-month pregnant with twins when she competed during the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.
While there are a number of women in their first trimester who competed (some of whom may not realize they are pregnant), the list below is of female athletes who competed in their second and third trimesters of pregnancy. These women are fully aware that they are with child, yet still made the conscious decision to compete. For some, these women may be crazy putting their babies at risk, but for us, they are simply awesome.
Check out some impressive women who competed (even won) in sporting events while pregnant.
Emily Jackson (Kayaking), 9 months pregnant
One of the most awe-inspiring wins by a pregnant woman is that of Emily Jackson-Troutman. In 2013, Emily won the women’s freestyle event at a kayaking competition in Cascade, Idaho called Payette River Games — when she was NINE months pregnant!
Whitewater kayaking is one of the most thrilling and challenging sports, especially when navigating difficult and violent rapids. Now imagine paddling through rough waters when you are nine months pregnant, where most women are experiencing fatigue and body aches.
Emily comes from a family of well-known kayakers and is a 2-time World Freestyle Kayak Champion. Throughout her pregnancy, she entered seven events, winning two of those events.
Check out Emily in her impressive win at the Payette River Games (2:20 mark):
Dana Vollmer (Swimming), 6 months pregnant
Five-time Olympic gold medalist Dana Vollmer competed in Meza, Arizona on April 14, 2017, while 24 weeks pregnant. Expecting her second child in July, she competed in the 50-meter freestyle in the Mesa Pro Series swim meet.
She told the media at the event:
Time didn’t matter. Places didn’t matter. I’ve loved being here. I loved seeing all my teammates, all the people from Rio.
Putting the health of the baby first doesn’t mean just sitting on the couch. It’s better for the baby, and it’s better for me to stay active, to stay strong going into labor.
Volmer placed last in her heat, clocking 27.51 seconds, or 55th out of 83 swimmers overall. Not bad for a pregnant lady! She chose the 50-meter as it did not require a flip turn.
Here’s a tweet from Dana describing her experience competing at a swimming meet while pregnant:
— Dana Vollmer (@danavollmer) April 14, 2017
Nur Suryani Taibi (Shooting), 8 months pregnant
Malaysian shooter Nur Shuryani Mohamad Taibi competed at the 10-meter air rifle event at the London 2012 Olympics. What’s amazing is that the then-29-year-old was eight months pregnant! While she did not advance to the finals, she still holds the record as the most pregnant Olympian ever.
Nur Suryani was the first woman to compete for Malaysia in Olympic sharpshooting. As a woman in her late-term of pregnancy, she faced questions about why she decided to compete when she should have been at home if she’s pregnant. She explained,
“Most people said I was crazy and selfish because they think I am jeopardizing my baby’s health. My husband said grab it as this is a rare chance which may not come again. Also, I am the mother. I know what I can do. I am a stubborn person.”
Watch Nur Suryani in action at the London Olympics:
Alysia Montano (Track and Field), 8 months pregnant
Alysia Montano created a stir in 2014 when she run 800 meters in the U.S. track and field nationals while eight months pregnant. The five-time national champion was last in her heat, but she was met with a rousing ovation when she reached the finished line.
According to Alysia, her physician gave her the OK to run and compete but was advised to take a nice, relaxed page. As she told in an interview,
“I wanted for people to recognize that fitness and pregnancy is a really good thing … What I found out mostly was that exercising during pregnancy is actually much better for the mom and the baby.”
Alysia also wanted to make the point that when women are pregnant, they have to incorporate it into their work – and her work just happens to be running.
“This is what it looks like being a professional woman in general whether my profession happens to be a professional athlete or a businesswoman who had to go to the office for a 9-to-5 job. This is what it looks like for me as a professional athlete and I want people to see that. “
Listen to her interview with CNN:
Anky van Grunsven (Dressage), 4 months pregnant
Anky van Grunsven is one of the most successful equestrians of all time, winning three successive Olympic gold medals in the individual dressage event. Her gold medal win at the 2004 Olympics in Athens was extra special as she competed while she was 18 weeks pregnant!
The Dutch equestrian was four months pregnant when she competed at the Olympics. However, Anky kept her pregnancy a secret:
“I didn’t tell anybody because it was so hot in Athens, and I didn’t want anybody to worry!”
She announced her pregnancy only after the event while celebrating her win with her friends at the Holland House in Athens. Her win in Athens was her second consecutive gold medal at the Olympics. Her son Yannick was born in November in an emergency cesarean section at 30 weeks after Anky developed preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced hypertension).
While doctors typically advise women to not to ride when pregnant, professional riders like Anky are physically fit and experienced enough to know the risks of riding as even the best can fall off. For her second pregnancy, Anky said she rode until she was eight months pregnant but she chose quieter horses. She did not want to take the risk of riding wilder horses that tend to jump.