Team USA’s Medal-Winning Moms Talk About What It’s Like To Compete As Parents

By Peggy Shinn | March 27, 2018, 6:06 p.m. (ET)

 

CRAFTSBURY, Vt. — Kikkan Randall left PyeongChang with a Soohorang stuffed white tiger toy for her 22-month-old son Breck. And an Olympic gold medal for herself — as well as her team and her country.

The Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 were Randall’s fifth and last Games, and she had a different mindset this time.

“[It was] my last chance to enjoy the experience and lay it all out there and walk away with no regrets so that when I do tell the story to Breck someday, I can say I left it all out there,” she said during the U.S. SuperTour Finals in late March — her final race series as a full-time athlete. “Maybe I would get what I wanted, maybe I wouldn’t. But either way it would be a great experience.”

The 35-year-old cross-country skier was Team USA’s only mom competing at the 2018 Olympics, and she joined a growing list of American women who have won Olympic or Paralympic medals after having children. At the Olympic Games Rio 2016, 10 moms competed for Team USA, with six winning at least one medal.

 

 

  • Kristin Armstrong won her third consecutive Olympic gold medal in the road cycling time trial, with 5-year-old Lucas giving her a hug near the finish line.

  • Kerri Walsh Jennings claimed her fourth Olympic medal (a bronze) in beach volleyball, with partner April Ross. Walsh Jennings has three kids.

  • Six-time Olympian Kim Rhode won her sixth Olympic medal in Rio — a bronze in skeet shooting. She is the only woman to medal at six consecutive Games. Rhode was pregnant with son Carter when she won a gold medal in skeet at the 2012 Olympic Games.

  • In track and field, Nia Ali was part of the USA sweep of women’s 110-meter hurdles, claiming the silver medal. Ali’s son Titus was born in the spring of 2015, and Rio was Ali’s first Olympic Games.

  • Three-time Olympian Brittney Reese also claimed a silver medal, in long jump. Before the Rio Games, Reese adopted her 8-year-old godson Alex and home schooled him so he could travel with her.

  • And Dana Vollmer famously returned to training after the birth of her son, Arlen, in 2015 with the goal of qualifying for the Rio Games and reclaiming her world record in the 100-meter butterfly. She was a #MommaOnAMission. She missed the record, but she brought home three Olympic medals: bronze in the 100 fly, silver in the 4x100 freestyle relay and her fifth gold medal in the medley relay (giving her seven Olympic medals total).

Like other Olympic moms, Vollmer found that motherhood gave her a new appreciation of her life as a world-class athlete.

“I’m more appreciative of every single moment that I have out here,” Vollmer said after winning the 100 fly bronze medal. “To really know that I might not have another individual 100 fly, you just never know.”

Recent medal-winning Paralympic moms include Brenna Huckaby and Danelle Umstead, who both competed in the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, and triathlete Melissa Stockwell, who won a bronze medal in triathlon’s Paralympic debut at the 2016 Games.

In her first Paralympic Games, 22-year-old Huckaby won two gold medals in snowboarding. She won two world championship titles in 2017 less than a year after daughter Lilah, now 20 months old, was born.

 

 

Umstead, a visually impaired alpine skier who has a 10-year-old son, Brocton, with her husband and guide Rob, competed in her third Paralympic Games in PyeongChang. Her best result was sixth in super-G. But she has three bronze medals from her previous two Games.

Stockwell was the first Iraq war veteran to qualify for the Paralympic Games in 2008 (in swimming). She then switched to triathlon and learned that the sport would make its Paralympic debut in 2016. She had a son in November 2014, then tried to qualify for the Rio Games, providing a perspective on the road that athletic moms face in returning to their former fitness levels.

“It hasn't been an easy road back, and if any of you are mothers out there, you know that your life changes, your body changes, and bouncing back is not easy,” she said after her first season on the comeback trail.

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Less than two years after son Dallas was born, Stockwell won a Paralympic bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Games. Daughter Millie Lynn was born a year later in August 2017. While returning from pregnancy has its challenges, Stockwell sees an added benefit to competing as a mom.

My kids give me an even greater motivation to dream big in hopes they will have big dreams of their own someday, and an extra push for my next big dream of trying to make it to Tokyo in 2020,” she wrote on her website, MelissaStockwell.com.

 

 

For Randall, who races in her final cross-country ski race on Tuesday, March 27, she enjoyed the camaraderie of the many other moms from other countries competing at the PyeongChang Games. These moms include Norwegian legend Marit Bjoergen who has won more Olympic medals at the Winter Games than any other athlete in history, and Finland’s Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, who has collected five Olympic medals over her long career.

“The funny thing was since all of us didn’t end up bringing our kids to the [PyeongChang] Olympics, we all realized how much time we had because we weren’t changing diapers and carrying things around,” said Randall. “It was like, oh my gosh, this is what life used to be like. It feels so foreign now.”

A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered five Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.