Serena Williams is well-known as an American professional tennis player and former world No. 1 in women’s single tennis. The list goes on and on, because she’s a talented woman. She has already won Olympic gold four times. So, most would assume that she’ll be competing again in the Tokyo Olympics. But those assumptions are mistaken.
There had been rumors that she wasn’t going to the Olympics. In May, she even said that she probably wouldn’t be going to the Olympics if her 3-year-old daughter was not allowed to accompany her. Now, she has formally withdrawn. She made the announcement at a press conference on June 27, 2021. She is just the latest high-profile athlete to withdraw from high-profile events in the interest of her own health and wellness, preferring to focus on what’s most important to her: her own and her family’s well-being.
Serena’s husband, Alexis Ohanian, recently said, “Also important for sports leagues & sports media to take note: the unbundling (thanks to internet tech) is happening to every single industry — this new era is one where athletes will have more and more leverage than ever before; support them, protect them, invest in them.”
Also important for sports leagues & sports media to take note: the unbundling (thanks to internet tech) is happening to every single industry — this new era is one where athletes will have more & more leverage than ever before; support them, protect them, invest in them.
— AlexisOhanian.eth 7️⃣7️⃣6️⃣ (@alexisohanian) June 1, 2021
Ohanian’s words ring even MORE true as we follow the news of two other female athletes on their road to the Tokyo Olympics. Mandy Bujold and Kim Gaucher are just two of the women who have made international news after their hopes for Olympic competition were dashed.
With two Pan-American and 11 national championships, Mandy Bujold is an internationally renowned fly-weight boxer. Her path to the Olympics was summarily stalled when the International Olympic Committee decided to review the points earned by boxers over an 11-month period to determine the top qualifiers for the Olympics.
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During that time, Bujold was pregnant and did not earn any points from boxing during those 11 months. So, she took her case to the Court of Arbitration for Sports, which ruled, “Accommodations must be made.” In her statement, she said that she never dreamed that her “fight for gender equity would be the most difficult” battle. She also said, “This is a decision that has the potential to change the sporting world for all women who decide to be a mom AND an Olympian.”
Bujold wasn’t the only woman who made waves on her road to the Tokyo Olympics. While Kim Gauthier wasn’t excluded, she has been fighting to get an exemption from COVID-19 travel restrictions that barred her from bringing her family. She took her case to social media, with her message: “Right now, I’m being forced to decide between being a breastfeeding mom or an Olympic athlete. I can’t have them both.”
Gaucher has been a member of the Senior Women’s National Basketball Team for Canada since 2001. She is the top scorer, with 13.8 points per game. She’s a key member of the team, and her team already qualified last year. The only problem has been that the International Olympics Committee and organizers have restricted attendance, which means that her baby daughter, Sophie, was not able to attend.
“Tokyo has said no friends, no family, no exceptions,” Gaucher said. The IOC has limited attendance to 10,000 max, which includes a combination of local fans from Japan and members of the media. So, she argued, “The arenas are going to be packed full, but I will not have access to my daughter.”
Gaucher didn’t give up. Beyond social media, she said, “We’ve tried all the traditional routes, we’ve tried appeals. Everyone says they’re on board, but nobody can do anything.” (She even looked into options for pumping a 28-day supply or even shipping the milk from Japan.)
After trying everything and STILL not getting any closer to a viable solution, Gaucher took to social media with her plight: “I need the help of the internet. If anybody knows anybody, anything, let’s see if we can make a difference. It’s 2021, let’s make working moms normal.”
The good news is that sometimes when you work to do what’s best for you and your family, it just works out. Gaucher looked ecstatic as she posted to Instagram: “Woke up to some big news this morning. Sophie can come to Tokyo. Whew, so relieved that I don’t have to make this decision.”
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I’ve always been amazed and inspired by the men and women who participate in the Olympics. They are the best athletes in the world. Yet, they’re still on the front lines of the battle for the right to breastfeed, to take time out for having a baby, and even (for Serena) to refuse to be apart from her 3-year-old. These are not new issues for working moms, but I guess I keep trying to imagine a world where we could get past all this!
What are your thoughts about the Olympics and mom-athletes (aka working moms)?! Let us know what you think about it below in the comments!
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