Time and time again, women prove that being a superstar athlete and a mother are not mutually exclusive. What was once thought to be a career-ender, the challenges of pregnancy and motherhood, has now come to be just another shattered obstacle that many female athletes overcome. Now we see female athletes return to training and competing on a world stage a few months after giving birth.
We want to give a shoutout to all the spectacular mothers who manage to excel as athletes while also raising kids. The few badass moms we highlight below are meant to represent all the moms out there that successfully juggle their dreams of being both an athlete and a mom.
Would a list of badass athlete moms be complete without the superstar tennis player Serena Williams? We don’t think so. This sensational tennis player won the 2017 Australian Open while 2 months pregnant and remained in the top world rankings after the birth of her daughter, Alexis Olympia.
This 23-time Grand Slam champion seems to have taken the challenge of motherhood in stride. At the age of 36, Serena encountered and overcame several medical complications during her pregnancy--including near-fatal pulmonary blood clots.
For 6 weeks after pregnancy, Serena was bed-ridden due to medical complications. In her first tournament after giving birth, Serena won 3 straight matches but had to withdraw for medical reasons. Many speculated that her desire to return to the game prompted her to return before her body was fully ready. In 2018, just 10 months after giving birth, she entered the Wimbledon Championship as the 181st ranked female tennis player in the world (she was 1st before pregnancy) and made it to the finals, losing to Angelique Gerber.
Since then, Serena has gone on to place 2nd in the 2018 US Open, 2nd in the 2019 US Open, and 1st in the 2020 ASB classic--propelling herself back into the top 10, proving that women can absolutely perform at an elite level after childbirth, if they choose.
By the age of 36, Kristin Armstrong had established herself as the most dominant female cycler in the US. She had won the 2006 and 2009 World Time Trials, 3 national time trials, and most impressively the Gold Medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. When she decided to retire in 2009 to start a family, nobody asked any questions. After all, she had already established herself as one of the best female cyclers in the world.
What did surprise people was when she announced in 2010, just one month after giving birth, that she would be returning to cycling. She went on to defend her title with another Gold Medal in the 2012 London Olympics, proving that being an athlete and a mom are not mutually exclusive. After winning, she decided to go back into retirement.
But, like most fierce competitors, Kristin Armstrong didn’t stay down long. She made another stunning return to cycling in 2015. Not surprising, she won yet another Gold Medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics. “People have asked me, over and over: ‘Why? Why am I back?’ And it’s because I can,” Armstrong said after winning her 3rd Olympic Time Trial. Kristin Armstrong is now a successful entrepreneur and the founder of KX3 Sports.
Nia Ali took no time to reach the top of women’s competitive track. By the end of college, Ali had won gold in both the 2011 World Championship Games and NCAA D1 Championship for the USC Trojans.
After college, Ali went on to win gold in 60m hurdles in the 2013 and 2014 USA Track & Field Indoor Championships. She then retired for the majority of 2015 to have her first child, Titus.
For Nia Ali, motherhood was not an end to competing, just a new challenge to conquer. In fact, her best years came shortly after she had her baby--and it didn’t take long for her to make a comeback. Just months after giving birth, Nia won her first IAAF World Championship in hurdles. She would go on to win two more.
Nia won silver in two more IAAF World Championships and, most notably, silver in the 2016 Rio Olympics. This is far from the end of her story, as she plans to compete once again in next year’s Olympics.
For Beth James, athletics and motherhood have become one and the same. Already a competitive triathlete and single mother of 3, Beth faced the greatest challenge of her life when, in 2004, she and her 3 daughters were involved in a severe car accident that left her youngest daughter, Liza, in a coma.
Three months later, a golf ball-sized tumor was discovered in Beth’s brain. Around the same time, Liza came out of a coma both non-verbal and unable to walk. Just months after the successful removal of the tumor and learning to care for her daughter with physical challenges, Beth was back to training and competing in marathons. This time around, she was determined to include Liza.
She decided that she would compete with Liza in tow during her races. Since then, Beth and Liza have completed nearly two dozen marathons and triathlons--including a 17-hour triathlon that includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run. From riding in a canoe attached to Beth while she swims, to a stroller connected to Beth’s bike, Liza is with her every step of the way. This duo is the perfect picture of perseverance, proving that Beth is an Ironwoman both in life and in sport.
Happy Mother’s Day
To all the mothers out there, athletes and non-athletes alike, we at ATAQ salute you for what you do for your families. Thank you for kicking butt!