Monday 23 April 2018

10 stars who returned to sport after giving birth

Sonia O'Sullivan pictured with her husband Nic Bideau and daughters Sophie and Ciara
Sonia O'Sullivan pictured with her husband Nic Bideau and daughters Sophie and Ciara

Simon Rice

Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill today announced that she is pregnant.

The news means the heptathlete and face of the London 2012 Games will not take part in this summer's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

However, the 27-year-old has vowed to return in time to defend her Olympic crown at the  2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“My plans for 2014 have been completely turned upside down," she said. "But having had a couple of weeks to think about things from a career point of view I am 100 per cent set on returning to full time athletics once our baby is born and go for a second gold medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016 - that challenge really excites me"

Here, we take a look at 10 women who returned to sport after giving birth.

1. Sonia O'Sullivan

The birth of her daughter Ciara in 1999 did not detract the Irish long distance runner from her career. She returned to training only 10 days after her daughter's birth with her subsequent performance at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 proving to be one of the highlights of her career, in which she won a silver medal in the 5,000m as well as finishing 6th in the 10,000m final.

2. Kim Clijsters

In 2007, the Belgian tennis player announced her retirement so that she could start a family and duly gave birth to her first child, Jade Elle. Yet in 2009 she announced her intention to return to the game. In only her third tournament back, she won her second US Open. She would add another in 2010 and the Australian Open title in 2011.

3. Lindsay Davenport

The American tennis player was back on the court barely a month after becoming a mother in June of 2007. Winning three out of the first four tournaments after her pregnancy, Davenport climbed back into the world's top 25 by the end of that year and would go on to win the US Open in 1998 and the Australian Open two years later.

4. Paula Radcliffe

Successful mothers are not confined to the tennis court, though: former BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Paula Radcliffe, celebrated a winning return to distance running two years after the birth of her daughter Isla. Still holder of several world records, the 35-year old athlete thinks that having a child has greatly increased her mental strength: 'You just feel that things are more in perspective.'

5. Dara Torres

Swimmer Dara Grace Torres is another shining example of successfully combining motherhood with professional sports. Just 15 months after giving birth to her first child, Torres won gold at the US Nationals in Indianapolis in 2007. Four days later, she even broke her own American record in the 50m freestyle - twice.

6. Suzanne Harmes

The Dutch gymnast Suzanne Harmes had to withdrew from the 2006 World Championships because of her pregnancy. Yet, the former gold medal champion quickly returned to her career: she was the only Dutch female gymnast to qualify for the Bejing Olympics in 2008. She came 32nd in the all-around.

7. Liz McColgan

Arguably the most impressive comeback from motherhood was Liz McColgan's performance at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo. Having given birth to her first child just the year before, she managed to win gold at the 10,000 metres final. Subsequently, the Scottish running athlete was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year 1991 and continued to enjoy a number of other successes, such as winning the London marathon in 1996.

8. Catriona Matthew

The Scottish golfer Catriona Matthew is another highly impressive example of successfully combining motherhood with sports: in 2009, she won the British Open only 11 weeks after having given birth to her second child, Sophie. Not that pregnancy detracted her from professional golfing anyway: at five months pregnant, she won a major tournament in Brazil; even at six months, she competed in Singapore.

9. Sybille Bammer

Austrian Sybille Bammer said she believed that motherhood had actually helped her career: 'Before I had my daughter my best ranking was 200.' Bammer won her first tournament back just six months after giving birth and achieved her career-high No.19 in world rankings in 2007.

10. Evonne Goolagong Cawley

The Australian won the Wimbledon Ladies' Singles three years after the birth of her first child, becoming the first mother champion in 66 years at the All England Club.

Online Editors

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