9 Athletes Who Got Better With Motherhood

Tennis pro Serena Williams is known for her fierce and aggressive game. (Photo: Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock)

1. Serena Williams

When she inadvertently posted a baby bump photo on SnapChat, Serena Williams accidentally announced to the world that she was 20 weeks pregnant. Her fans celebrated the news — and then they did the math. If Williams was 20 weeks along, that meant that she had been around eight weeks pregnant when she won the Australian Open. Williams confirmed that she learned of her pregnancy just a few days before the matches began.

But wait, isn't pregnancy supposed to ruin your athletic career?

Remember, it wasn't all that long ago that women were banned from certain sports because it was deemed that the endeavors were too challenging for the female physique. Thanks to some determined female trailblazers and legislation such as Title IX, athletic opportunities for women have expanded like never before. And now that women have broken through those barriers, they're realizing that they no longer have to choose between starting a family and pursing excellence in athletics.

Williams is one of a growing list of athletes who know that motherhood isn't a career-ender. Here are more elite mother/athletes who came back to their sports even stronger after having children.

2. Kara Goucher

Before distance runner Kara Goucher became a mom, she took home a bronze medal at the 2007 World Championships in the 10,000 meters and came in ninth at the Olympic 10K in 2008. Goucher gave birth to her son Colt in 2010 and set more running records almost immediately after her return to running. In 2011, she ran her fastest marathon ever with a time of 2:24:52. She followed that up with wins at the USA Half Marathon Championships in 2012 and the Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Half Marathon in 2015.

3. Dana Vollmer

Swimmer Dana Vollmer has been competing in the pool for most of her life. At the age of 12, she was the youngest person to compete at the 2000 Olympic Trials. She took home a number of gold medals at the 2004 and 2012 Olympic games and continued doing so at the 2016 Games after her son Arlen was born in 2015. Vollmer recently announced that she is expecting again with a new Vollmer due July 2017.

4. Christie Rampone

Christie Rampone has always been a force on the soccer field and that certainly didn't change after she became a mom. Pre-kids, Rampone represented the U.S. on the women's team at the World Cup and Olympic Games and she continued doing so after her two children were born.

Rampone made not just one comeback, but two. She played in the 2007 World Cup and 2008 Olympic Games after her first daughter, Rylie, was born in 2005. In fact, Rampone played her first professional comeback game less than four months after giving birth. She came back to soccer again after daughter Reece was born in 2010 with a second-place finish at the 2011 World Cup. In the 2012 London Olympics, Rampone led the U.S. team to gold as captain, playing all 570 minutes of the six matches.

5. Kerri Walsh Jennings

Kerri Walsh Jennings has dominated the beach volleyball scene for almost two decades. She and teammate Misty May-Treanor won Olympic gold in the event in 2004, 2008 and 2012 with Walsh-Jennings becoming a mom and then adding to her family in between. Her first son Joseph was born in 2009, followed by son Sundance in 2010 and daughter Scout in 2013. In fact, Walsh-Jennings was five weeks pregnant with Scout at the 2012 Olympics. She and teammate April Ross brought home another medal — this time a silver — at the 2016 Games.

6. Nia Ali

In 2014, Nia Ali won the 100-meter hurdle track and field event at the World Indoor Championships with a blazing fast time of 7.80 seconds. She took some time off in 2015 to give birth to her son Titus, and in 2016, she came back to defend her gold medal, winning the event once again with a time of 7.81 seconds. Titus came along on her victory lap. That year, she also took home the silver at the Olympic Games for the 100-meter hurdles, helping the women's team earn their first-ever sweep of that event as they took home gold, silver and bronze.

7. Kristin Armstrong

Cyclist Kristin Armstrong won the gold medal in the women's road time trial at the 2008 Olympic Games. In 2010, she retired from the sport to start a family, but quickly realized that the two were not mutually exclusive. Her son Lucas was born in 2010 and Armstrong returned to competing and won the gold again at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

8. Candace Parker

Before she gave birth to her daughter, Lailaa in 2009, basketball player Candace Parker made a name for herself on the court. In high school, she became the first and only player to win the Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year award two years in a row. In college, she was the first women ever to dunk in a college game. When she went pro, she won both the WNBA's Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards. After Lailaa was born, Parker came back to the sport after just seven weeks and again won the Most Valuable Player award for the 2012-2013 season. She has also led the U.S. women's team to two Olympic gold medals in 2012 and 2016.

9. Jennie Finch

In 2008, Time magazine called Jennie Finch the most famous softball player in history. That was after she and the rest of the U.S. women's team took home the gold at the 2004 Olympic Games. It was also after Finch had her first son, Ace, in 2006. She came back to softball and helped her team bring home the silver at the 2008 Games before adding to her family with son Diesel in 2011 and daughter Paisley in 2013. Though she is now retired from softball, Finch continues to be an ambassador for the sport and an inspiration to aspiring athletes and new moms everywhere.