The American cross-country skier Kikkan Randall took gold and a Norwegian counterpart, Marit Bjoergen, took third in the same race. Both have very young sons.
When the US women’s cross-country ski team won a gold medal at the Pyeongchang Games, it was a spectacular event. This was the first time in history that a US team placed first for the gold in the sprint freestyle race. But it was also the first time ever that Americans won an Olympic gold medal in cross-county skiing.
Cross-country skiing is an exceptionally arduous sport
And far more so at the elite Olympic level. But the team sprint – especially on this brutal course – is demanding to the point of cruelty. The event requires each set of two teammates to ski a total of 7.5 kilometers, with each team member taking turns skiing three laps of 1.25 kilometer each.
Overcoming the trials of new motherhood, while maintaining the ability to win Olympic medals
Motherhood, of course, presents a far different set of challenges. Pregnancy and a new baby routinely place extreme demands on a woman’s body, mind, and spirit. Yet two women, Kikkan Randall of the United States (who won the gold medal with her teammate Jesse Diggins) and Marit Bjoergen of Norway (who won the bronze medal), stood on the Olympic podium as two relatively new mothers of 2-year-olds.
7 elite ski racers all had babies within 6 months of each other in 2015 and 2016
The schedules of elite cross-country skiers are controlled by the Olympics and the world championships. The Olympics occur every four years, in an even numbered year. The world championships take place every other odd-numbered year. This means that 2016 was an “off year”, and a mini baby boom happened!
Seven of the world’s top women cross-country skiers saw the hiatus in their skiing calendar as the perfect opportunity to start a family. Randall’s son, Breck, will be two in April and Marius, Bjorgenn’s son, turned two in December.
In three out of every four years, an elite cross-country skier’s routine is incredibly rigorous. A skier trains for several hours a day which means extra sleep is needed. And there’s travel. Lots of it. All the skiers travel as a nomadic group across several European countries from November through April.
How to be the best mom and the best athlete?
After their pregnancies, the seven mother/skiers worked together to get back into an absolute peak of physical condition. Even under these conditions, they all learned to be excellent mothers. They lobbied the International Ski Federation to provide credentials for caregivers. Baby rooms were created and stocked with diapers and toys to accommodate the children and those who watched over them.
All that extra work and tireless preparation paid off in the extreme as Randall and Bjorgen accepted gold and bronze on the Olympic podium. In addition to their medals, the two mothers each received a stuffed version of a white Soohorang Tiger, the Olympics’ mascot. Randall said, “This is for Breck”, and Bjoergen responded, “This is for Marius.”
It was an exciting event. I especially love that it continues to support women not having to choose motherhood over career; we can have both. Believe me, I relate to that. And most importantly, share this article or tell your daughters about it. It makes me and my daughters proud. Girl Power!
Let me know what you think! Thaïs
Read the full article at: www.nytimes.com