The Women’s Worlds – A triumph for women in sport

Agnes Knochenhauer and Anna Hasselborg at the LGT World Women's Championship 2023 © WCF / Stephen Fisher

The LGT World Women’s Curling Championship 2023 in Sandviken, Sweden was a significant marker for women in sport, womanhood and mums.

Three athletes – well into their pregnancies – competed on the international stage. Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg and Agnes Knochenhauer are both pregnant with their second child, while Canada’s Briane Harris is awaiting her first.

After a gruelling round robin, the two countries were in the hunt for medals and faced each other for the bronze, with Canada eventually earning the win. Several other mothers were starring for their countries, including a young mum, Sweden’s Sara McManus, back competing at the highest level six weeks after giving birth to her son.

“I love setting up goals but then I wouldn’t take anything for granted as I didn’t know how my body would react after giving birth or even like how the baby was doing. But the plan was always to come back and I am so grateful that I was able to come back as soon as I did.”

Curling after giving birth

Hasselborg admitted she lost motivation after her first child.

“This pregnancy I feel so very well. It’s different when you have a small child, a smaller child. You’re not 100 per cent in control of your own sleep so that is the biggest difference and being an athlete, sleep is very important. But for the most part, I’m surprised how well everything is going. I’m not holding back anything,” says Hasselborg.

The ever increasing fitness levels of elite athletes has helped to extend time in the sport and facilitated a return to competition more quickly after giving birth.

Sara McManus at the LGT World Women’s Curling Championship, six weeks after giving birth © WCF / Jeffrey Au

In 2015, the International Olympic Committee gathered experts from around the world to explore research and recommendations for athletes during pregnancy and after childbirth. Their report found that it was completely safe for women to keep training and competing, as long as they adapted to the needs of their own body as it changed.

Many athletes though still face criticism. Briane Harris, lead player for Canada, explained,

“People don’t know your situation. They just like to think that women should be this ideal old school version, only the home and the children but women can do anything men can do in that respect. If they want to chase their dreams and be athletes too, they can do that too and still be mums as well.”

Team Canada at the LGT World Women’s Curling Championship 2023 © WCF / Stephen Fisher

Supporting these elite athletes has a direct impact on women and girls across all levels of sport. Any of them wanting to be involved need to feel comfortable and know they belong and that there is space for them, even when they are thinking about becoming a mum.

Being an elite athlete on tour and being a mother can be done, as can competing and training while pregnant.

The athletes at the World Women’s have shown what is possible. Pregnancy isn’t a disability or an injury. Some say in fact it can be a superpower. Times are changing but there is some way to go before a pregnant athlete excelling at her sport, is regarded with excitement rather than a source of scrutiny or at the very least curiosity.

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Sandviken, Sweden

29 March 2023
LGT World Women’s Curling Championship 2023