Pregnant Olympian: Malaysian shooter shrugs off criticism

Olympian Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi, a Malyasian shooter 8 months pregnant, shrugs off criticism that she may be harming her baby. Studies show that exercising during pregnancy helps mothers and babies.

Rebecca Blackwell/AP
Olympian Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi, who is eight months pregnant and a shooter with the Malaysian team, trained for the 10-meter air rifle event at the Royal Artillery Barracks ahead of the the start of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

And I thought I was cool for running a mile or two when I was eight months pregnant. (I called it the “ruddle,” a mix between a run and a waddle.) Next week, the very pregnant Malaysian shooter Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi is going to compete in the Olympics, representing her country in the 10-meter rifle event.

And then she’ll hurry up and get on a plane home because her doctors don’t want her flying after 35 weeks.

I am in love.

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It is no easy feat to be an athlete and a pregnant woman at the same time. With all that stuff going on in the bod, adding extra physical stress is hard. Even for the immortals.

Marathon world-record holder Paula Radcliffe, for instance, said that training during her first trimester was the hardest physical task she had ever confronted. This kept me from feeling pathetic for months. (Of course, the Radcliffe continued to run 14 miles a day while pregnant and then won the 2007 New York City Marathon months after giving birth, but she is a different species.)

But it’s not just the physical toll. When you’re pregnant and trying to exercise, you get a lot of flak. People on the street scowl at you. Acquaintances tell you you’re being selfish and are hurting your baby. Older relatives bite their tongues.

All of this despite study after study that shows that exercise helps, rather than hurts, both mom and little runner – or shooter – to be. 

When I was pregnant I participated in a study at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center that monitored what happened to babies when their late-in-pregnancy moms exercised. They put us on a treadmill, had us exercise at various intensities, monitored mom and fetus, and then immediately performed ultrasounds to see what was going on with baby. Later they collected health information about our infants.

The researchers wanted to evaluate two categories of pregnant women: those who were already regular exercisers and those who were fairly sedentary. They wanted to test the oft-repeated (although, it turns out, based upon very little evidence) theory that “moderate” exercise during pregnancy was OK for those of us who are already active, but that pregnancy is not the right time to start an exercise program.

The study is not yet complete, but so far the doctors involved have found that women can exercise much more vigorously than previous thought, and that exercise doesn’t have any negative impact for those women who hadn’t worked out previously. There are also a slew of apparent benefits to both baby and mom when mama is active.

Even running active, or Olympic active.

Ms. Taibi qualified for the Olympics just days after she found out she was pregnant. She says that she has already received a lot of criticism, but has mostly shrugged it off.

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“Most people said I was crazy and selfish because they think I am jeopardizing my baby’s health,” she told reporters. “My husband said grab it as this is a rare chances which may not come again. Also, I am the mother. I know what I can do. I am a stubborn person.”

I’ll be cheering from here.  

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