Women in sport receive a lot of backlash when it comes to starting a family. Allyson Felix is a current example of how successful women in sport often have to choose between achieving their sport dreams and becoming a mother.
In her interview with ESPN, Felix stated that she was unaware she was pregnant while she was running during her first trimester and continued to hide her pregnancy because, “having a child felt like I’d be risking my career and disappointing everyone who expected me to always put running first”. Felix also stated that, “many female athletes feel that they are disappointing fans and family members when starting a family.”
Felix, the 2012 Games’ 200 meter Olympic champion, was inspired by 23 time tennis Grand Slam champion Serena Williams who also competed in her sport while pregnant and was undoubtedly successful. While it is different for female athletes choosing to have families, as they more often than not carry the child, men rarely revisit the topic of their careers when choosing to start a family or have a child. Medical complications during Felix’s pregnancy caused her to require a medical C-section at 32 weeks pregnant. Fans were shocked to find out about Felix’s C-section, as there was no public coverage of her pregnancy. Felix also stated that, as a female athlete, she felt the need to “live up to my pristine, nice girl image”, implying that the success of females in sport is not based on their ability, but their socially accepted gendered identity.