When Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi competes in the London Olympics 10m air rifle event this summer all eyes will be on her stomach. The 29-year-old Malaysian shooter will be eight months pregnant next month, and according to The New York Times , “Nur Suryani looks likely to set the record for the most heavily pregnant competitor in Olympic history.”
As the media focuses in on Nur Suryani’s growing belly, her participation in the games is bringing up the question, do pregnant women belong in the Olympics?
Nur Suryani’s might be an Olympic athlete but shooting targets isn’t any more strenuous than vacuuming a house. Her unborn baby will be perfectly safe during the event. Nur Suryani told theTimes that her biggest concern is that the baby “will kick just as she pulls the trigger” and cause her to miss a target.
Only three other women (see slide show below) have competed in the Olympics while pregnant. In 1920 Swedish figure skater Magda Julin was three months pregnant when she took home a gold medal; at the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics, Germany’s Diana Sartor was nine weeks pregnant when she competed in the women’s skeleton event; and at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, Canadian curler Kristie Moore was five months along when she and her teammates won a silver.
While the number of pregnant Olympic athletes is few, these women and their bellies were scrutinized and made fun of in the media. Sports writers joked that curling couldn’t be a real sport because it was being played by a pregnant woman, and Sartor was called selfish for putting her baby at risk by competing in one of the more dangerous Olympic sports.
Nur Suryani faced criticism from Malaysian sports authorities who were concerned about the pressure of the events on her health and the safety of traveling to London close to her due date, which is September 2 . They also expressed concern about her ability to “perform at her best” while pregnant, according to the Times, and suggested that another athlete take her spot.
Nur Suryani wasn’t going to let the authorities kill her dream, and she convinced them that her pregnancy has actually improved her game. She told the Times that the weight gain due to her pregnancy has given her better stability. In the end authorities supported Nur Suryani and the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak promised that the government would take care of all her medical needs in London.
The discussion around whether pregnant women should compete in the Olympics is the same one that comes up repeatedly with pregnant women in the business world . Do pregnant women belong in the workplace? Do they have a place in the Olympics? Will Nur Suryani still hit the targets even though she’s pregnant? Can Marissa Mayer save a struggling Yahoo while expecting a child? It’s the same tired debate that comes up every time a hard-working, successful woman gets pregnant. Will she still be able to perform? Something tells me that Nur Suryani is up for the task.
“My aim is to do everything perfect and then the result will come after. If you aim for a gold medal, you put yourself under pressure,” she told the Times.