Yes, Serena Williams can return and dominate postpregnancy
It’s not a thing. Many sports stars didn’t skip a beat after giving birth
Serena Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam champion, announced Wednesday morning via her Snapchat that she is expecting her first child.
The tennis star captioned the photo “20 weeks,” and social media had a field day creating memes, discussing how Williams dropped it on Maria Sharapova’s birthday, and so on.
Then it dawned on folks that the 35-year-old won the Australian Open, and broke Steffi Graf’s modern-era Grand Slam record in the process, during her first trimester.
ESPN’s Coast to Coast was live when the news broke, and host Cari Champion confidently said she believed Williams would win at least two more championships postpregnancy. Co-host David Lloyd wasn’t biting on two, explaining that age may be a factor in slowing Williams down when she returns.
For star athletes like Williams, returning from having children and winning championships appears to be the actual norm. Just some examples …
sheryl swoopes, basketball Hall of famer
In 1997, the WNBA was on the precipice of beginning its new league. Sheryl Swoopes, who won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Games, was to be the face of the organization.
She was the female version of Michael Jordan and the first woman to earn a shoe sponsorship when Nike released her Air Swoopes line. Then the Texas Tech star announced that she was pregnant with her son before the inaugural season kicked off, and gave birth to him six weeks into the Houston Comets’ season.
Swoopes returned before season’s end and formed the most formidable Big Three that basketball has seen with Tina Thompson and Cynthia Cooper, who led the Comets to four consecutive championships from 1997 to 2000.
“I don’t know if anyone thought that was possible until [Sheryl] did it. Once she did, then it became pretty normal,” Swoopes’ former teammate and four-time WNBA champion Tina Thompson told The Atlantic.
“The day [Sheryl] came back was a big deal. No one had ever done that before — especially not on a team sport,” ESPN anchor Hannah Storm told The Atlantic. “Cynthia Cooper deserves credit for being such an exceptional leader and player that season. Sheryl deserves credit for making it normal, and Coach Van Chancellor deserves credit for allowing all of the women on his team to be women.”
kerri walsh jennings, olympic volleyball player
Similar to Williams at the Aussie Open, Olympic volleyball legend Kerri Walsh Jennings won her third Olympic gold medal in beach volleyball in 2012 — and she won it while five weeks pregnant. At the time she announced the pregnancy on the Today show, Walsh Jennings had two other children, both under age 3.
“When I was throwing my body around fearlessly, and going for gold for our country, I was pregnant, and today I’m 11 weeks pregnant,” Walsh Jennings told the Today show’s Matt Lauer.
Walsh Jennings won bronze in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Candace Parker, Los angeles Sparks
After her rookie season in the WNBA, Parker announced that she and her longtime boyfriend, former NBA forward Shelden Williams, were expecting their first child in the spring of 2009. Parker was the league’s Rookie of the Year and MVP, averaging 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds.
The couple opened up about the pregnancy in January 2009, and the WNBA’s season kicked off in June while running through September.
“My whole career has been trying to please people in basketball,” Parker, 22, told The New York Times in a telephone interview. “Now it’s time to please myself.” She added, “For me, family has always come first.”
After missing a month, Parker returned to the Sparks in time to finish the season leading the league in rebounding. She was named to the All-WNBA second team and All-Defensive second team and helped lead the Sparks to the Western Conference finals, which Los Angeles would go on to lose to the eventual WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury in three games. Parker averaged 18 points and 10.7 rebounds per game during the playoffs.
Alysia Montano, Track and Field
Alysia AMontano made headlines in July 2014 when she ran the 800-meter event at the U.S. track and field championships 34 weeks (or eight months) pregnant with her first child.
The five-time national champion led the pack for the first 120 meters but ended up finishing in 2 minutes, 32.13 seconds, which was almost 35 seconds slower than her personal best of 1:57.34 four years earlier in Monaco.
“I’ve been running throughout my pregnancy and I felt really, really good during the whole process,” Montano, 28, told ESPN after the heat.
The former University of California star finished last, but when she crossed the finish line, she received a rousing round of applause.
A year later, Montano won the 4 x 800 relay at the World Relays Championships in Nassau, Bahamas.
Lindsay Davenport, Tennis
A little less than a month after giving birth in 2007, Lindsay Davenport was back on the court, winning two titles — Bali, Indonesia, and Quebec City — in the second half of the year. Besides that, she was named the 2007 Comeback Player of the Year.
She worked her way back up to the world’s top 25 before year’s end and went on to win the U.S. Open in 1998 and the Australian Open two years later.