Being an Olympic athlete is probably one of the most challenging physical things a person can do. You have to be in more than perfect shape and train for years to reach your goal. Your focus on your body is 150 percent — what you eat, the exercise you do, the amount of sleep you get while training. Imagine having to do all that and also be pregnant, and deliver and raise a child. It's the very rare person who can be an Olympic athlete who is also a mom.
In the 2016 Rio Games, there were 10 moms on the USA team. For the 2018 PyeongChang Games, there is one mom on Team USA competing in the Olympics and one competing in the Paralympics. The Winter Olympic team is smaller than the Summer Olympic team, which could account for the discrepancy. But it still speaks to the fact that it's really hard to train at the Olympic level, physically recover from childbirth, and juggle the care of a little one. Even Serena Williams, arguably the greatest of all time, didn't bounce back as quickly from giving birth as her superhero status would have led us to think she would, which caused her to pass on competing in the Australian Open.
We cheer all of the athletes in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games but give an extra shout out to the moms out there who are competing with a very different level of responsibility in their lives.
Marit Bjoergen is a cross-country skier from Norway who will be competing in her fifth Olympic Games. Reuters described this 37-year-old as tied to be most decorated female winter Olympic athlete, with 10 medals: six gold, three silver, and one bronze. Bjoergen took off less than a year from skiing after her son Marius was born in December 2015. Her partner, Fred Borre Lundberg, is also an Olympic skier, the official Olympic website says, so this baby may have a genetic advantage if he wants to follow his parents and compete some day.
French Freestyle skier Marie Martinod quit skiing when she was 22 so she could "learn more about real life," according to Reuters. She had a baby girl, and took five years off from the sport before returning to compete in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The 33-year-old is hoping to beat her silver medal achievement in the half-pipe by getting the gold in PyeongChang.
The only mom on Team USA competing in PyeongChang, Kikkan Randall is a cross-country skier, who raced in Sochi and said she was five hundredths of a second short of medaling there. Randall wrote for Motto that she had her son Breck in 2016 and sat out that season, but was cleared to return to training a month after giving birth. She worked her way back to competing strength and won a bronze medal in the 2017 Nordic World Ski Championships. Mixing her training with changing diapers and taking care of her son, she's hoping for gold in PyeongChang.
Sarah Schleper is a four time US Olympic skier who retired in 2011, when her son was 4 years old, The New York Times reported. She had another son in 2013 and has been living in Colorado with her sons and her husband, a native of Mexico. Schleper received dual citizenship and the Denver Post said she decided to ski for the Mexican team in the giant slalom race in PyeongChang. She's also been mentoring young Mexican ski racers and is working to help many Mexican ski racers train in Colorado.
Danelle Umstead started skiing after she went legally blind at age 27. Danelle had a degenerative disease called retinitis pigmentosa, which gradually took away her sight. She told CNN that she was very depressed after she fully lost her sight. Her dad called her up and said, "We're going skiing," and changed her life forever. Since starting to race, she has competed for Team USA in the 2010 Vancouver Paralympic Winter Games and 2014 Sochi Paralympic Winter Games, earning three bronze medals. To get through the race, she skis with her husband Rob, who guides her via a bluetooth headset. At 44, she's a mom to Brocton and is hoping to medal again in PyeongChang.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.