Most Powerful Moms: Top Female Athletes

Most Powerful Moms: Top Female Athletes

Women have been hard at work for decades dispelling the myth that they aren’t as good at sports as men. Men usually are the ones dominating the sports headlines, so with Mother's Day today we wanted to take a moment and recognize all mothers.  We also wanted to acknowledge a core group of top female athletes who are proving that you can be both -- a top athlete and a mom -- at the same time.

How did we choose this list of 11 powerful moms and athletes?  They had to be part of a major athletic force.  From Olympic Gold medals to World Championships, from basketball to golf, these moms are at the top of their game and respective sports.

Being a mom is hard.  It's one of the most rewarding roles in my life and also at times one of the hardest.  My daughters are the two things that keep me up at night, sneaking in to check if they are breathing.  I love being a mom, and would not trade it for anything in the world.

I'm blessed to be able to stay at home with them, as each of them need me in their own ways.  B is in the midst of toddler land with bumps and bruises, adventures on the monkey bars, discovering a new world every day.  E is on the verge of becoming a woman as she enters middle school.  Her bumps and bruises require more than a Sesame Street band-aid and a sticker.  Each girl needs me in their own way and I second guess myself a lot.  One of the hard things about being a mom is carving out the time for me.  Whether it's taking time to go for a walk or head to a barre class, it's hard to take that time -- to find that time.  So I'm in awe of this list of moms who watched their bodies transform during pregnancy and then returned to their sport to be at the top of their game.  It's honestly nothing short of miraculous!

Motherhood is not the end of your career or your sports career.  In fact many moms on this list reached the height of their game after becoming a mom!  Tennis player Kim Clijsters was the number one ranked player in the Women’s Tennis Association in 2011.  When she won her Grand Slam trophy she held both her daughter and her trophy in what is now a famous photo.  Clijsters is the second woman to win three Grand Slams as a mom.  Swimmer Dara Torres won three Olympic silver medals in the Beijing games three weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Tessa Grace, proving you really can do it all.

While all moms should be recognized on Mother’s Day, here are 11 special moms who managed to balance their family and their career as a world class athlete.

1) Kristin Armstrong

Kristin Armstrong (no relation to Lance Armstrong!) won the women’s time trial at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing with a time of 35 minutes.  Even at the height of her career, she took time off in 2011 to have her son Lucas but returned to the sport and won a gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

2009 Topps Allen and Ginter Kristin Armstrong 214x300 Image

2) Juli Inkster

Juli Inkster is one of golf’s greats. She has won three consecutive U.S. Women’s Amateur titles (1980-1982), joined the LPGA in 1983, won two majors and Rookie of the Year in 1984.  When Juli had her daughters (Hayley and Cori), she took time away from golf to focus on her family.  But in 1999, Inkster learned how to balance family and golf and went onto win two majors.  In 2000 she was inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame, and won majors in 2000 and 2002.

2003 SP Authentic Golf Juli Inkster RC 215x300 Image

3) Kim Clijsters

Before retiring in 2012, Kim Clijsters was the top of her profession.  Breaking on the WTA scene in 1999, she was a force to be reckoned with ranking number one in singles and doubles in 2003.  In 2007, Clijsters decided to retired from tennis to focus on family, and after her daughter's birth in 2008 she decided to return to competing winning the US Open in 2009.  In 2010, she went on to win the US Open title again. And in 2011, she became the second woman in history to win three Grand Slams as a mother. Clijsters became number one in WTA rankings in February 2011, becoming the first mother to do so.

2003 SI for Kids Kim Clijsters 213x300 Image

4) Candace Parker

Most women’s basketball players don’t dunk in games, with the exception of Candace Parker.  She was the first woman to dunk in a NCAA tournament and the first woman to dunk twice in a college basketball game. After graduating from the University of Tennessee, Parker played in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and won the gold medal with her teammates.  She was drafted by the Los Angeles Sparks in 2008 and won the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards that year.  Parker took the year off in 2009 to have her daughter but came back to basketball that summer.  Parker earned a spot on the USA Basketball Women’s National Team and won her second gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

2008 09 Press Pass Candace Parker Autograph 260x188 Image

5) Kristine Lilly

Kristine Lilly has always been up for a challenge. In 1995, she was the only woman in an all-male professional indoor soccer league. In 2001, she was a founding member of the Boston Breakers of the Women’s United Soccer Association, leading the league in assists.  Lilly has won four NCAA championships, one FIFA Women's World Cup, and two Olympic gold medals.  She stepped away from soccer in 2008 to give birth to her daughter, Sidney Marie, and returned to the world of soccer.  Lilly was a member of the United States Women's National Soccer Team for 24 years.  She gives new meaning to the term "Soccer Mom" as the most capped soccer player in the history of the sport gaining her 352nd and final cap against Mexico in a World Cup qualifier in November 2010.

Kristine Lilly Wheaties Box 208x300 Image

6) Paula Radcliffe

Britain’s Paula Radcliffe is arguably the greatest woman’s distance runner of all time.  She is the current women's world record holder in the marathon with her time of 2:15:25 hours. She is a three-time winner of the London Marathon (2002, 2003, 2005), three-time New York Marathon champion (2004, 2007, 2008), and won the 2002 Chicago Marathon.  In 2006 Radcliffe took a break from running due to injuries, but her break was extended when she had a daughter, Isla, in January 2007. Radcliffe made her return to marathons on Nov. 4, 2007, at the New York City Marathon – which she won both in 2007 and 2008.

2005 SI for Kids Paula Radcliffe 217x300 Image

7) Noelle Pikus-Pace

Noelle Pikus-Pace was considered a favorite to medal during the Turin Olympics in skeleton racing. That changed when she broke her leg in 2005 in a freak bobsled accident, underwent surgery, and a titanium rod had to be inserted into her right leg. While her ordeal was captured in a documentary 114 Days: The Race to Save a Dream, Pace was competing seven weeks after the accident and tried to compete in the Turin Olympic trials!  She took time off in 2008 to have her daughter, Lacee, and competed in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics (fourth place) and the 2014 Sochi Olympics (silver medal).

2014 Topps US Olympic Team Autographs 68 Noelle Pikus Pace 214x300 Image

8) Jenny Potter

It’s no easy feat to be a mother of two and an Olympic veteran but hockey player Jenny Potter has managed to do it, and makes it look easy.  Potter took home the gold medal in 1998, the silver medal in 2002 and the bronze medal in 2006 in ice hockey.  And she did this all with being a mom since 2001!  Currently, Potter plays for the Minnesota Whitecaps of the Western Women's Hockey League.  She was part of the first US-based team to win the Clarkson Cup, which allowed Potter to become an unofficial member of the Triple Gold Club (women are not yet recognized by the International Ice Hockey Federation ).  Potter is one of three women to win the Clarkson Cup, a gold medal in ice hockey at the 1998 Winter Olympics, and a gold medal at the IIHF Women's World Hockey Championships.  She gives new meaning to the term "Super Mom!"

Jenny Potter USA Hockey Magazine 224x300 Image

9) Kerri Walsh

What does it take to be considered the greatest beach volleyball player of all time? How about three gold Olympic medals and three gold World Championship wins? Kerri Walsh along with her teammate Misty May Treanor is a force to be reckoned with on the volleyball court and at home.

2007 Topps Allen and Ginter Kerri Walsh Autograph 212x300 Image

10) Christie Rampone

Sometimes referred to as “The First Lady of Soccer Moms,” Christie Rampone is a role model for moms everywhere. On the U.S. women’s national team since 1997, Rampone has been a force in the soccer world at every level, as a star in college and various pro leagues, as well as having played in four FIFA Women's World Cups and four Olympics.  Rampone gave birth to her first child on Sept. 25, 2005 and returned to the soccer field 112 days later!  In 2008 she was named captain of the national tam and led the USA to gold in Beijing. She is a three-time gold medalist having won championship titles at the 2004 Athens Olympics, 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics.  Rampone currently plays for Sky Blue FC in the National Women's Soccer League, is captain of the United States women's national soccer team, and is a mom of two.

2012 Paini Americana Heroes and Legends Christie Rampone 210x300 Image

11) Dara Torres

No list of Olympic moms or athletic moms would be complete without Dana Torres.  This 47-year-old mom is a rockstar and a goddess!  She is the first swimmer from the US to compete in five Olympic games, and has won 12 medals in the process. She’s also the first woman to swim in the Olympics after the age of 40. Torres made waves in the Beijing Olympics, when, three weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Tessa Grace, she won three silver medals!  Three weeks!  And she was 40 at the time!  Let's be honest winning three silver medals is an accomplishment but consider for a moment the fact that 1) Torres was twice the age of most of her competitors, 2) she was a mom, 3) she was the first woman over the age of 40 to swim in the Olympics!  Six-time Olympic coach Michael Lohberg sums Torres up best: “… Dara is not measured by normal standards. She is truly an exception, defying several laws of life."

2010 Upper Deck World of Sports Dara Torres 214x300 Image

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms and special women out there who act as mothers when perhaps our own biological mothers are lacking.  Each of you are amazing!

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Jennifer Smeth

E-Mail Author |  http://www.cardboardconnection.com/
Jennifer Smeth joins The Cardboard Connection team as its Chief Marketing Officer and co-owner along with her husband, Mike. While her knowledge of sports memorabilia and collectibles has been gleaned from her marriage, Jennifer’s father ensured she has been waving a Terrible Towel since Super Bowl XIV when the Pittsburgh Steelers snagged a spot in NFL history. Jennifer brings more than 15 years of marketing, event planning, public relations and social media experience to The Cardboard Connection. Her strength is brand development, execution of strategic strategies and community relationships. In her spare time, Jennifer is a stay-at-home mom to the Smeths’ two daughters and she also owns one of the world's fastest growing, independently owned book and literary review websites, Book-alicious Mama. You can find Jennifer on Twitter @bookaliciousmom and Google+.

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