By Nidhi Kinhal
Belarusian tennis player Victoria Azarenka, after her three-set win in the Wimbledon first round, wasn’t one to regurgitate what the world says to women in sports after they give birth. While sports is not considered a “mother-friendly industry”, women like her choose to push back against this system.
“Nothing is impossible for women, that’s definitely true,” she said. Azarenka gave birth to Leo in December, and has recently made a comeback. “One of my biggest inspirations was Kerri Walsh, who came back after three kids and still playing for a gold medal. I think it’s possible. Even before me we had players do this, like Kim Clijsters,” she added. She also pointed out that some other women who’ve bounced back after motherhood have lower ranks, and hence, their stories aren’t heard.
The Australian Open champion is not the first this month to express admiration for her contemporaries. It really makes us question what we’re told about women, competition and jealousy. In turn, I’m sure many women in tennis look up to her. “Being a role model is a big honour and I think big pressure,” she commented. Despite how difficult and disregarded these comebacks are, she hasn’t let the heat get to her. “It’s not as scary as people think sometimes. It definitely is a decision that you have to make, to give yourself that break and be able to work hard and start from zero physically”, she says. If one is passionate about what they love, they can do that, she says, while also acknowledging that gender is a factor: “Guys have luxury to never stop their career and for girls it’s tougher”.
Her honesty and determination is making us hopeful about female professionals in various sports; hopefully, motherhood and sports won’t be seen as mutually exclusive anymore.