Stereotypically, mothers in sport only appear in sports stories when they’re making a scene on the sidelines. Then surfaces a Kim Clijsters or a Paula Radcliffe or a Catherine Ndereba or a Catriona Matthew, defying and redefining gender stereotypes, rebooting the enduring and engrossing debate about motherhood aborting career prospects.
The success of Clijsters confirms that motherhood need not interrupt a woman’s career even when it requires supreme athleticism, tactical skill and fierce competitive instinct. In the more gender-bound terrain of the sub-continent, motherhood is a curtain-call for athletes, the return from motherhood to competitive action far less probable.
That puts into perspective the accomplishments of discuss-hurler Krishna Poonia, boxer Mary Kom and high jumper Sahana Kumari. Far from being deterred by the apparent shackles of motherhood, the trio has not only managed to sustain their competence level but also ensured that their performances only improved.
Most of Krishna Poonia’s achievements were after she gave birth to Lakshya, almost a decade ago. And for him, she would strive that extra yard for a medal.
“He is now at an age where he understands what my performances mean and how hard I have to work for them. The smile on his face and the cheer in his voice when I do reasonably well is a fair reward for this effort,” said Poonia, aiming to breach the 65-metre mark in London, in what would be her last Olympics.
So would it be for boxer MC Mary Kom, who buckled two (2008 and 2010) of her five World Cup titles after delivering twins, Raengpe and Naidong. Incidentally, her maiden Olympic bout coincides with the fifth birthday (August 5) of her twins. “I want to win that bout. It will be the best present for my two sons,” she said. An Olympic medal would be an even better gift.
Also making her Olympic debut is Sahana Kumari, mother of six-year old Pavana. “Her face gave me the motivation to work harder. I want her to be proud that her mother is an Olympian. A couple of years ago, when I couldn’t improve my record, I even thought of retiring. But her face gave me the courage and motivation,” she said.
“It is a regret that my husband and I have had to sacrifice the pleasure of watching our child grow and of enjoying his childhood because we are away so often.
“He is about to turn 11 and I am looking forward to spending the rest of his formative years in close proximity to him,” felt Poonia. So would attest Mary and Sahana.