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Malaysian Woman To Compete In Olympics At 8 Months Pregnant

What a nice Olympics story…

As she prepares to make her Olympic debut later this month, Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi’s greatest fear is not that she may succumb to the pressure that comes with being the first woman to represent Malaysia in shooting.

Rather, Nur Suryani is worried about whether the baby girl inside her will kick just as she pulls the trigger: The Olympian will be eight months pregnant when she competes.

The 29-year-old Malaysian, who is ranked 47th in the world in the 10-meter air rifle event, is set to join an exclusive club of women who have competed in the Olympics while pregnant.

The International Olympic Committee does not keep records on the number of pregnant athletes, but a search of news reports suggests that only three other pregnant women have competed in the Olympics, all of them in the Winter Games. And Nur Suryani looks likely to set the record for the most heavily pregnant competitor in Olympic history.

Shooting may be less strenuous on a pregnant body than many other sports, but it is also a sport in which fortunes can hinge on fractions of millimeters, with breathing, balance and concentration considered paramount.

Nur Suryani has a solution when she steps onto the rifle range in London: “I will talk to her, say, ‘Mum is going to shoot just for a while. Can you just be calm?”’

While pregnancy has presented few physical problems during her training for the Olympics, more challenging was the task of convincing the Malaysian sporting authorities that she would be fit enough to travel to London and be able to perform at her best.

As she strapped her belly into specially modified pants during a recent training session at an indoor shooting range at Kuala Lumpur’s national sports complex, Nur Suryani described how Malaysian sports officials had been concerned about her health and her baby’s, and had initially suggested that another shooter could take her place.

But after her doctor gave her the all-clear to travel, Nur Suryani, who won gold in the 10-meter air rifle event at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India, was adamant that she would compete.

“I said, ‘I got the qualification, so it’s mine,”’ said Nur Suryani, who discovered she was pregnant two days before qualifying for the Olympics in Doha, Qatar, in January.

“For me nothing is impossible,” she said. “It’s one of the challenges. If I abandoned it, maybe who knows? Another four years to wait, maybe I don’t have the opportunity.”

Nur Suryani, who has taken a year’s leave from her job as a logistics officer in the Malaysian Navy, said what had helped persuade sports officials to give her the green light was that her performance had improved as she progressed through her pregnancy.

When she competed in a World Cup event in London in April, she shot 392 out of a possible 400. In Milan in May, she shot 394, and in Munich in the same month, she recorded 396.

“Maybe during the Olympics I will increase another two points,” Nur Suryani said.

She said that while it now takes her longer to settle into the right position before shooting, she believes her pregnancy has helped her stability.

“One advantage that I’ve seen is that my stability increased — maybe because my gravity increased, my weight increased,” she said.

If she encountered resistance to fulfilling her Olympic dream earlier in her pregnancy, the tide appears to have turned. Nur Suryani said she had been heartened by the support she had received from strangers as well as colleagues.

Even Prime Minister Najib Razak has said that the government will ensure that all her medical needs will be taken care of during the Olympics and that it will organize a flight to London for her husband, according to reports in the local news media.

On a recent trip to the supermarket, she said, a man working at the store told her she walked “like a gangster, not like a mum, so I believe you can do it.”

Nur Suryani, who started shooting when she was 14, said her goal for the London Games was simply to shoot to the best of her ability on competition day.

It will be the first Olympics for the shooter, who won two gold medals at the Southeast Asian games in November, in the 10-meter air rifle and 50-meter rifle three-position event.

“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 said.

As she prepares herself for an onslaught of media attention in London — “my stomach is more popular than me,” she laughed — she has already envisioned the conversation she will one day have with her daughter.

When she is old enough to understand, she says she will tell her, “You are very lucky, you’re not born yet and you already went to the Olympics.”

This is pretty inspirational. It’s great to see a woman fight and win for her right to compete. We hope that Nur Suryani gets her gold!

Source Photo Credit: Rahman Roslan for the International Herald Tribune


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