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RUBINO: Some athletes enrich, redefine Mother's Day
Sports have become part of annual holiday

  • Evonne Goolagong Cawley won Wimbledon three years after having daughter Kelly. She was the first mother to win a Wimbledon singles championship since before World War I. (ROBERT DEAR / Associated Press, 1980)

There isn't enough space in a standard-size newspaper column for a thorough Mother's Day tribute to current or recent world-class athletes who are moms. There are so many mothers in so many different sports who are extraordinary athletes, each with her own individual inspirational narrative.

Just a brief, quick-hit list includes (and if there is an omission, please know it's not intentional): Candace Parker and Tina Thompson in basketball; Dara Torres in swimming; Christine Rampone in soccer; Kim Clijsters in tennis; Jenny Potter in hockey; Paula Radcliffe in track; Juli Inkster in golf; and Jenny Finch and Stacey Nuveman in softball.

Not to diminish the extraordinary motivation, work ethic and talents of those athlete-mothers, but it shouldn't be ignored that they found acceptance and support in a society that has advanced seemingly lightning quick after decades of glacially paced progress. After all, it wasn't that long ago when females weren't encouraged to pursue sports, let alone competitive excellence, when motherhood and top-level athletics were mutually exclusive.

That's why today's Mother's Day tribute will focus on two athletes from generations past who reached the heights of their sport, became mothers, and returned to world-class athletic glory, at a time when it wasn't merely unusual, but when it was viewed by too many as an oddity instead of a groundbreaking, pioneering achievement.

Tennis prodigy Evonne Goolagong was still only 19 years old when she won Wimbledon in 1971. “New Champion In From The Outback” was Sports Illustrated's cover headline heralding her straight-sets victory against defending champion and fellow Australian Margaret Smith Court.

Goolagong's mere arrival at Wimbledon was somewhat of a fairytale. Born of Aboriginal parents, Goolagong was attracted to tennis at an early age, almost by accident, was brought along by liberal-minded tennis patrons, and before she turned 20 had won both the French Open and Wimbledon.

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