41-year-old Uzbekistan native Oksana Chusovitina is the oldest female gymnast in Olympic history. She also happens to be a mom, which is often the very next thing you learn about her.
It’s wonderful and inspiring that Chusovitina is a mom to a 17-year-old as well as a seriously talented Olympian at twice the age of her competitors. However, the fact that she’s a mom has become a weirdly necessary addition to her story despite the fact that it has nothing to do with her skills as an athlete.
And she’s far from the only Olympian-slash-mom to have received this sort of treatment.
Swimmer Dana Vollmer won silver and bronze medals, but it’s difficult to find a headline that doesn’t mention that she gave birth a mere 17 months earlier. Nia Ali, who’s competing in the 100-meter hurdle, has been surrounded by articles wondering how does she do it and reporting on how she raised her infant son while training. Kerri Walsh Jennings was five weeks pregnant when she won her third gold medal for volleyball, and it’s still one of the first things mentioned about her. Sure, winning medals while pregnant is pretty amazing, but that was four years ago.
There’s a post on Team USA’s website dedicated to its 10 competitors who are moms but not one for dads despite the fact that there are more than four times that many dads representing Team USA.
Much of the attention Olympian moms receive may be because of the impact pregnancy and new motherhood can have on competing. Considering that intensive training may affect fertility, it’s not surprising that giving birth could also cause some difficulties. Women’s bodies can change dramatically both during and after they’re pregnant. Couple that with the physical and mental strain that occurs during training and competition, and it becomes clear these moms are champions through and through.
Being an athlete and a mother is amazing, but it’s not an impossible feat, and more often than not, it’s not something women do alone.
Olympian dads are also working hard to “have it all” by balancing training with raising kids.
It’s just not assumed to be such a huge feat when a dad can also be an Olympian because we generally don’t associate dads with child care, and we assume they have a wife or someone taking care of their homes and families while they’re working hard. Which is an absurd double standard.
So here we go.
Here are nine Olympic dads:
1. Michael Phelps, swimming
Phelps’ son Boomer has been getting a lot of attention lately because he’s been sleeping through his dad’s gold-medal-winning races.
“Im always worried that hes sleeping right, breathing right, getting enough food, getting better, Phelps told The New York Times.
2. Jordan Burroughs, wrestling
“Theres nothing harder than being a dad,” Jordan told NBC Olympics (though Jennings and her gold-medal-earned-while-pregnant may beg to differ).
3. David Boudia, diving
“This is my job. More than diving, my job is to make sure my family is well taken care of,” Boudia told NBC Olympics.
4. David Plummer, swimmer
“I have just tried to streamline everything else in my life so that I can spend as much time with him and my wife as I can,” he told USA Swimming. “There is nothing more important to me right now than my family.”
5. Carmelo Anthony, basketball
“[Fatherhood] has made me see things different. I now think twice about my actions. Everything I do affects my son Kiyan, King told BCK.
6. John Nunn, race walker
The quote in the tweet says it all.
7. Tervel Dlagnev, wrestling
“Im now a two-time Olympian, but Im most proud of being a husband and a dad,” Dlagnev told Rock Tape.
8. Tony Azevedo, water polo
“One of the ways we get my son to sleep is by saying, ‘When you sleep, you grow!'” Azevedo told Us Weekly.
9. Justin Gatlin, track and field
“Im trying to move mountains for him, so Ive got to go out there with the intent to really try to do it,” Gatlin told Us Weekly.
In their own words, these dads-slash-athletes are just as much proud and involved parents as Olympian moms are. The way they’re talked about should reflect that.
Just because these dadthletes, if you will, didn’t experience physical body changes to bring their kids into the world doesn’t mean their roles as parents aren’t as notable as their female Olympian peers’.
So let’s stop directing all the parenting credit to Olympic moms (or subsequently giving credit for them winning medals to their husbands) and eliminate the double standard of coverage for male and female athletes. If motherhood must be included when writing and reporting on the achievements of female athletes, then fatherhood should be reported on for male athletes. That way, hopefully, the idea of a mom who is also an athlete will stop being seen as an “impossible feat” and athletes who are dads can show that child care is something they participate in too as equals.