Mother's Day Edition: Checking In On Marathon Moms (& Other Sports Moms)

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See Mommy More and more, elite female athletes are taking on a challenge greater than sports. They're returning to the competitive world of sports while juggling motherhood.

Soccer moms have long led the charge. The U.S. Women's National Team has consistently featured mothers on its roster since 1994, when Joy Fawcett became the first "Soccer Mom" to give birth and continue playing at the highest levels of international soccer. Carla Overbeck and Danielle Fotopoulos also had kids while on the U.S. team, and more recently, three moms have played for the USA in defenders Kate Markgraf (mother of Keegan), Christie Rampone (mother of Riley and Reece) and Tina Frimpong (mother of MacKenzie). Though retired from competitive play, Mia Hamm joined the Soccer Moms Club when she and husband Nomar Garciaparra welcomed twin daughters in 2007. Four years ago, Brandi Chastain became mom to little Connor and three years ago Julie Foudy, former captain of the US Women's soccer team, had a baby girl named Isabel. Former captain Kristine Lilly returned to play after daughter Sidney was born. She retired from professional soccer at the beginning of 2011 and announced she is expecting Baby #2.

Obviously, competitive women aren't waiting until their athletic careers are over to start families. And while the physical and emotional challenges of motherhood can be difficult, most athlete moms wouldn't have it any other way.  WNBA player Lisa Leslie sat out a season with the Los Angeles Sparks to give birth to a daughter but she returned to the pro team for a year and had a great season before giving birth to baby #2 and retiring. Leslie's teammate, MVP and Rookie of the Year Candace Parker is also a new mom enjoying baby Laila while playing in both the Euroleague and the WNBA. Other WNBA moms share their favorite Mother's Day memories on WNBA.com. But Parker and Leslie are far from the first WNBA stars to have their basketball careers impacted by pregnancy. In previous seasons, Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and others have missed time, and occasionally entire seasons, to focus on their families.

After pitcher Jennie Finch had a son named Ace with husband Casey Daigle she competed with the Women's National Softball Team at the Beijing Olympics and played for the Chicago Bandits. She is expecting her second child this summer. US National teammate Jessica Mendoza continues to play for National Pro Fastpitch usually bringing young Caleb on the road with her.

When the U.S. women's hockey team beat Finland to win the bronze medal at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, forward Jenny Potter skated around the rink in celebration with her then 5-year-old daughter Madison in her arms. Potter's daughter was a fixture at the rink at an early age. A week after Madison was born in January 2001, Jenny was skating again. Three months later, she was back playing for the U.S. women's hockey team in the world championships. What's even more impressive is that Jenny did it all again. Just 83 days after having her second child, Potter helped the 2007 U.S. Women's National Team to a 9-0 victory over Kazakhstan in the opening game of the 2007 IIIHF Women's World Championship. 

Tennis player Lindsay Davenport had an amazing comeback after giving birth to her son Jagger. Just three months after the birth of her first child, Davenport became an instant and almost shocking success winning a number of high profile tournaments. She recently gave birth to her second child. Kim Clisjters came out of retirement after her daughter was born and famously won the U.S. Open as an unseeded player.

Other images from the world of women's sports clearly show the tide has turned. Legendary Czech cross county skier Katerina Neumannova collapsed on her knees at the finish line after winning gold in the 30-kilometre race at the 2006 Turin Olympics, her poles askew as she hugged her two-year-old daughter, Lucie. Former Ironman world champion Lori Bowden placed second at Ironman Austria, just 10 months after giving birth to her son Tyson. And pro cyclist Sue Palmar-Komar, a 2002 Commonwealth Games silver medallist, at age 41, had a sibling for her seven-year-old daughter Trinity. And who can forget long distance runner Paula Radcliffe who won the New York Marathon months after giving birth to daugher Isla. Kara Goucher is the newest marathon mom having completed this year's Boston race six months after having her son.

On the long list of athlete moms is Gold medal-winning swimmer Dara Torres, who made an amazing comeback while mothering toddler Tessa, and fellow swimmer Summer Sanders who is married to three-time Olympic skier Erik Schlopy with whom she has a daughter and a son.

Most of these working moms admit they can't do it alone. And while their spouses and families pitch in, they are also assisted by their leagues and teams. Potter said USA Hockey provides helpful financial assistance during Olympic years. And before the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) folded, the league mandated that home teams must provide child care for the mothers on visiting teams. The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) takes things to a whole new level. Since 1993, the LPGA has operated the LPGA Child Development Center, which travels to more than 25 tournaments per year. Bardine May, the Center's director, said the LPGA was motivated to provide child care so that its athletes didn't have to choose between playing the game and having a family.

There are many different kinds of mothers in this world. There are professionals and homemakers. Some are fashionable, some conservative, some are modern and some are cool. Fortunately some are competitive athletes as well.

Be sure to tell YOUR mom how much you appreciate her this Mother's Day.

crossposted on prettytough.com

@jschonb

dare to dream

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