One of the most iconic moments at U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials came during the celebration following the women’s 400m final. After qualifying for her fifth Olympic team — and first as a mom — second-place finisher Allyson Felix introduced her two-year-old daughter Cammy to another toddler: Demetrius, son of first-place finisher Quanera Hayes.
“Can you say we’re going to Tokyo?” Felix asked, right after Demetrius leaned in to give Cammy a hug.
During the impromptu playdate, Hayes made a point of thanking Felix.
“I just told her that I was grateful for all that she’s done for mothers, and her paving the way for me as an athlete with all that she’s done for the sport,” Hayes said.
Felix spoke on TODAY Wednesday about sharing that special moment with Cammy after she qualified for her fifth Olympics and first since she became a mom in 2018.
“She doesn’t understand everything, but I wanted her to be proud of me, and I’ll explain all of this later to her,” Felix said. “But just so much has gone into this moment. There’s been so much struggle, so much to overcome, and so to share that moment with her, it’s pretty indescribable.”
Felix has returned to being a world-class competitor after facing a life-threatening condition during Cammy’s birth. She underwent an emergency C-section at 32 weeks after being diagnosed with a severe case of preeclampsia.
Cammy weighed 3 pounds, 7 ounces at birth and spent her first few weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. The ordeal also left Felix questioning if she could regain her form as one of the best track athletes in the world.
“I thought about that the night before I raced, of all of the hardship,” she said. “Being in the NICU, gradually trying to get back and the doubts of, was I ever going to be able to get to a point where I could run again, let alone on a world stage. So now that’s a dream come true.”
At the Tokyo Olympics, Felix and Hayes will be joined on the U.S. Olympic roster by at least nine other moms. The current count (11) is likely to increase as Olympic qualification continues.
One particularly notable stat: For four U.S. athletes – Allyson Felix, Diana Taurasi, Serena Williams, and Mariel Zagunis — Tokyo will mark their fifth Olympics, but first as moms.
Moms who have qualified for Team USA for the Tokyo Olympics
Alex Morgan – Soccer
While Alex Morgan never ruled out playing the Tokyo Olympics before the postponement, she was certainly aided by the one year delay. Morgan, who will be making her third Olympic appearance this summer, gave birth to daughter Charlie in May 2020. In Tokyo, Morgan will become the fifth USWNT player to make an Olympic roster after giving birth.
Skylar Diggins-Smith – Basketball
After playing the 2018 season while pregnant, four-time WNBA all-star Skylar Diggins-Smith gave birth to her son Rowan “Seven” Smith in April 2019. The Tokyo Games will mark Diggins-Smith’s Olympic debut.
Diana Taurasi – Basketball
Since winning her fourth Olympic gold medal in Rio, Diana Taurasi has become a mom. Taurasi’s wife Penny Taylor, a two-time Olympic silver medalist for Australia, gave birth to the couple’s son Leo in 2018.
In Tokyo, Taurasi and teammate Sue Bird could become the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. The U.S. team will be aiming to win a seventh straight gold medal.
Mariel Zagunis – Fencing
The Tokyo Games will mark the fifth Olympic appearance for Mariel Zagunis (and her first as a mom). Zagunis, a four-time Olympic medalist and the most decorated U.S. fencer in history, gave birth to her daughter Sunday Noelle in October 2017.
Serena Williams – Tennis
Serena Williams last won a Grand Slam title at the 2017 Australian Open, where she was eight weeks pregnant with daughter Olympia.
Olympia has yet to see her mother add to her 23 career Grand Slam singles titles (an Open Era record). Serena has gone 0-4 in Grand Slam finals since making her return to competition in 2018.
In Tokyo, her fifth Olympics, Williams could break her tie with sister Venus for most Olympic gold medals in tennis history. (They own four each, including three doubles titles they won together.)
Williams mathematically clinched a spot in Tokyo earlier this year, but she has not committed to competing at the Olympics. In May, she voiced concerns about whether Olympia would be able to travel to Japan with her.
Allyson Felix – Track & Field, 400m
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Allyson Felix became the most decorated American woman in Olympic track & field history (nine medals, including six gold). Two years later, she became a mother. A severe case of preeclampsia resulted in an emergency c-section and Felix’s daughter Cammy spent her first month in the NICU.
Felix has since raised awareness about racial disparities in maternal mortality, testifying in Congress about her own experience.
At the Tokyo Games, Felix’s fifth Olympic appearance, she could tie or break the record for most medals won by an American track & field athlete. The current record is held by Carl Lewis (10).
Quanera Hayes – Track & Field, 400m
Quanera Hayes qualified for her first Olympic team by winning the women’s 400m at U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials and celebrated on the track with her son Demetrius.
Hayes gave birth to Demetrius in October 2018 and said returning to the track was a challenge. “Coming back, it was tough. It was like I had to learn how to run all over again. I couldn’t come out of [the blocks], my stride was different.”
Still, her hardest experience as a mom came last year. Quanera’s husband, Demetrius Sr., is from the Bahamas and baby Demetrius was visiting his grandparents when the island shut down to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“He was stuck in the Bahamas for four months,” she said. “I couldn’t get to him, they couldn’t get to me… It was the worst experience of my life. He was growing up and he was learning new stuff without me.”
The emotional reunion between Hayes and her son was captured in this video.
Sally Kipyego – Track & Field, Marathon
Sally Kipyego finished third at U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in February 2020 to qualify for her second Olympic team. At the 2012 London Olympics, Kipyego won silver in 10,000 while representing Kenya. She became an American citizen in 2017, the same year she gave birth to her daughter Emma.
“A lot of women have children, and they come back and somehow they run and they’re fantastic,” she said after making the U.S. Olympic team. “That was not my story. My body fell apart. I got sick all the time. I couldn’t even put together a month of training without getting fatigued.”
Aliphine Tuliamuk – Track & Field, Marathon
When Aliphine Tuliamuk won the women’s marathon at U.S. Olympic Trials in February 2020, she had it all planned out: she was going to race at the Olympics in July and then she wanted to have a baby.
But when the Covid-19 pandemic postponed the Games, Tuliamuk and her partner Tim Gannon reassassed their family planning timeline. Tuliamuk announced her pregnancy in December 2020 and gave birth to daughter Zoe in January (after 50 hours in labor).
“In the future, [my daughter] will be able to look back and say, ‘My mom was able to run a marathon at the Olympics six-and-a-half months after having me,’” Tuliamuk told On Her Turf in April. “And I hope that inspires her… and other little girls and boys, too.”
Cat Osterman – Softball
Both Cat Osterman and the sport of softball will return to the Olympics this summer. Osterman, 38, was a member of the U.S. team at the last two Olympics where softball was contested, winning gold in 2004 and silver in 2008. Osterman retired from the sport 2015. The following year, she married her husband Joey Ashley and became stepmom to daughter Bracken.
In 2018, Osterman came out of retirement with the goal of winning gold in Tokyo.
Foluke Gunderson (née Akinradewo) – Volleyball
The Tokyo Olympics will mark Foluke Gunderson’s third Olympics, but first as a mom. After winning silver in 2012 and bronze in 2016, Gunderson gave birth to son Olukayode Ayodele in late 2019.
Gunderson is one of four returning Olympians on the U.S. women’s volleyball roster. In Tokyo, the U.S. will aim to win its first ever gold medal in women’s volleyball. In 11 appearances, the U.S. has finished on the podium five times (three silver medals, two bronze).
The NBC Olympics research team contributed to this report.
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