Rio de Janeiro — In less than one week, the eyes of the world will be on Rio de Janeiro as the Olympic Games arrives in South America for the first time. Usually, we were emotionally moved by the “drive and hustle” of Olympic athletes, impressed by the spirit of indomitable fortitude and persistence, but what impressed us the most is someone who still became a champion after giving a birth.
Trying to be a mother and a champion Olympian simultaneously is a tough task, but the Olympic Games has its fair share of mums juggling their duties.
Some of the better-known include British marathon runner Paula Radcliffe, American tennis star Lindsay Davenport, and Japan’s seven-time world judo champion Ryoko Tani.
But there are plenty more changing nappies one minute and training the next.
Italian fencer Valentina Vezzali hasn’t let having a child get in her way of being the best in the world, making Olympics history here by becoming the first person to win three successive individual titles with victory in the foil. She did it for her son. “My son asked me for a medal, but he didn’t ask for a particular one,” she said. “Here it is.”
Judoka Xian Dongmei put family matters on hold to achieve her Olympic dream, and she was China’s first gold-medal mum. “I miss my child so much,” said Xian who defended her women’s -52kg title. “After the Olympics I will go back home quickly and make up for the love I have missed.” Xian gave birth to daughter Liu Jiahui in January 2007, had been criticized in local media as “cold-hearted” for giving up feeding her baby after seven months to focus on her Olympic build up.
They are not the first super mums to win a medal after going through labour.
Ethiopia’s Derartu Tulu, the 10,000-metre Olympic gold medalist in 1992, won the title again in 2000 two years after giving birth to a daughter.
And Australia’s Jana Rawlinson, missing from Beijing Olympic Games due to injury, famously regained her 400-metre hurdles world title in 2007 just eights months after having a baby.
Davenport, 40, is another. She was returning in 2007 after giving birth to Jagger with the specific goal of playing the Olympics.