“My life philosophy has been to be bold and courageous.”
We live in a society where motherhood and prosperity are mutually exclusive terms. To the employer of a female athlete, a pregnancy indicates the termination of a flourishing career. When Six-Time USA Outdoor Champion Alysia Montaño became pregnant, she refused to represent this misconception; instead, she took this stereotype and turned it upside down. In 2014, Montaño proved that embracing motherhood did not coincide with sacrificing her champion titles. Montaño competed in the 2014 United States Championships whilst in her 3rd trimester of pregnancy and was nicknamed “The Pregnant Runner”. Behind the scenes of this seemingly beautiful narrative laid a dark truth: Montaño’s paychecks being threatened by her sponsor, Nike. When Montaño announced her plans to enter motherhood to sponsors like Nike and A6, they simply told her they would end her pay. The US Olympic Committee also informed Montaño that she would face repercussions if she did not physically remain in tip top shape throughout her pregnancy. Montaño became livid with the fact that there were no policies in place that would protect women during their maternity leave; thus began her relentless efforts to advocate for pregnant athletes. She began by creating a maternity leave legislation, which protected a pregnant athlete’s health insurance. When returning to compete postpartum, Montaño exceeded her employers’ expectations by winning 2 national championships. These championship titles prove to brands like Nike that motherhood does not necessarily mean sacrificing one’s career. Montaño has since launched her campaign #DreamMaternity, which is a social media movement meant to unite women to strive for policy change. She continues to stand in solidarity with female athletes through her podcast Keeping Track, where she relays the narratives of inspiring female athletes and shares an in depth explanation about her experiences as a pregnant athlete. As of August 12, 2019, Nike has announced a new maternity policy for all sponsored athletes, proving that reform is possible.
Q: Why does Alysia wear a flower in her hair during every race?
A: “The flower to me means strength with femininity. I think that a lot of people say things like ‘you run like a girl’. That doesn’t mean you have to run soft or you have to run dainty. It means that you’re strong.”