Meet The Incredible Moms Who Are Competing In The 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games
We know moms are pretty amazing, but moms who double as Olympians? That seems almost superhuman. While there have been mothers in the Olympic Games since 1900, the year women were first allowed to compete, this year the mothers of the postponed 2020 Tokyo Games can finally embrace that part of their identity more fully.
It wasn’t long ago that mothers competing in the Olympics really had to hide the fact that they were mothers. Pregnant athletes lost sponsorships, not to mention there were really no rules that helped pregnant or nursing athletes. For moms, making time to both compete and spend time with their children was almost impossible.
Now new laws are making it easier on nursing moms. This year, for the first time, it was announced that nursing babies were allowed to accompany their mothers to the Games. More and more female athletes are advocating for how mothers are treated in sports.
Finally, women who are also mothers are not so invisible in the Olympics.
Here are eight incredible mothers who will be competing in Tokyo this summer.
1. Allyson Felix
Allyson Felix is a mother and a competitor. With six medals, she’s the most decorated female track and field Olympian ever. But finally we’re getting to know her as a mother, too. It’s a part of her identity that is immensely important to the athlete. She recently talked to Today about being both a mom and an Olympian.
“(Cammy) doesn’t understand everything,” she said of her daughter. “But I wanted her to be proud of me and I’ll explain all of this later to her. Just so much has gone into this moment. There’s been so much struggle and so much to overcome, and to share that moment with her? That’s pretty indescribable.”
2. Alex Morgan
Soccer star Alex Morgan is mom to 2-year-old Charlie. When the health crisis hit, for Alex, it was an opportunity that enabled her to recover from birth, as her baby was just a couple of months old. Alex — who like many of the US women’s soccer players is an advocate for equal pay — recently posted on Instagram about the struggle of being both a mom and an athlete. She shared a picture of herself and her daughter and captioned the post, “I’m going to miss my baby girl so much this month. Charlie girl, I’ll make it worth it! #tokyo2020.”
We bet she will!
3. Sally Kipyego
Marathoner Sally Kipyego is a true warrior. After a rough pregnancy with her now 2-year-old daughter, Emma, and an emergency C-section, she said her immune system suffered. She was hit with both malaria and pneumonia.
“My body is different. My body kind of fell apart after giving birth,” she told Runner’s World. “But mentally I’m stronger. … I keep telling myself, ‘You can go through childbirth, you can pretty much go through anything.’ I can take the pain better now.”
Weeks ago, Sally posted on Instagram that another child named Jerop has also joined her family.
4. Aliphine Tuliamuk
For some Olympic athletes, when the 2020 Games were postponed, that meant there was a window to start a family. Aliphine Tuliamuk was one of them. She became pregnant and gave birth to her daughter, Zoe, in January 2021. Amazingly, she went straight back to her training, which she had to schedule around breastfeeding, in order to prepare for the postponed Summer Games.
While marathons are no easy feat, Aliphine said that her daughter’s birth was the ultimate challenge. “I was so naive. I thought I’d get induced and in 12 hours I’d have my daughter. It ended up being 50 hours. That was the longest marathon I’ve ever ran,” she told Women’s Running. “I look at my daughter and the feeling I get, I can’t describe it. I’m just so happy. I didn’t realize how good motherhood is.”
5. Gwen Berry
Gwen Berry is an outspoken activist, and she’s bringing her voice to the Tokyo Games. The hammer thrower ruffled feathers when she turned away from the American flag as the national anthem played during the track and field trials, but don’t expect her to stay quiet. As a Black woman and a superstar athlete, Gwen is used to pressure. Still, she says there’s none greater than raising a Black teenage son in America: “The things I have to deal with and I have to protect my son from is enough pressure. And I’m here. I’m old enough to be able to handle a lot of this pressure.”
6. Quanera Hayes
Quanera Hayes and Allyson Felix have had quite the journey together. They gave birth just weeks apart in 2018 and returned to the sport at the same time. But Quanara says it was incredibly challenging. “Coming back was very tough,” she told the Team USA blog. “I had to learn how to run all over again.” Still, Quanera managed to come in first in the 400-meter race at the trials. Then she and Allyson shared an incredible moment when their children joined them on the track after the race.
She gives Allyson Felix a ton of credit for helping to pave the way for mothers in the sport, like advocating for maternity benefits. “Thank you for using your voice to speak up for mother’s and pregnancy,” Quanera wrote on Instagram in a post dedicated to Allyson. “Where would I be if it wasn’t for your voice. I know this has made you so much stronger than you could’ve ever imagine.”
7. Mariel Zagunis
“I’m really excited to go to my next Olympics with her to show that anything is possible,” she told USA Fencing. “If you put your mind to it, you can make your dreams come true. It would be a really awesome experience to have with her and our entire family and to be able to tell her someday that I went to all these Olympics and then had her and we did it together.”
8. Skylar Diggins-Smith
Skylar Diggins-Smith is a four-time WNBA all-star, but the Tokyo Games will be her first time going to the Olympics. The athlete has already proven herself to be an incredible force, however. She played the 2018 season while expecting her first child. She gave birth to her son, Rowan “Seven” Smith, in April of 2019.