Since starting this blog in February, we at Bloomer Girls have covered some really ground-breaking, inspiring women. Add Malaysian rifler Nur Suryani to that list.
In January, the 29 year-old Suryani became the first Malaysian woman to qualify for the Olympics for rifle shooting. Days before qualifying, however, she learned that she was pregnant. Now, in a totally badass move, Suryani announced she plans to compete at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London despite the fact that by then she will be 33 weeks into her pregnancy. While she did withdraw from the events in which competitors shoot while lying on their stomachs, she will remain in the 10m event.
The Malaysian National Olympic Committee had concerns about Suryani travelling (she would fly to and from London in her 33rd and 34th week respectively, and airlines recommend that pregnant women do not fly after 35 weeks), and although shooting is not particularly physically taxing, competing in the Olympics is certainly an emotional and potentially stressful experience. Still, Suryani is undeterred.
“My aim is to compete. Maybe, at the end of June or whatsoever, if I have some problem that would jeopardise the baby inside me, I will reconsider whether I am going or not. But I feel I am strong and my husband says ‘as long as you feel like that, energized to do that, it seems like that is your baby talking to you so you go’. The doctors say I am very good and very fit and it is OK for me to train up to eight months or nine months.”
Be still my beating heart, Suryani is awesome. You know what’s also awesome? My pleasant surprise that the International Olympic Committee doesn’t have any rules regulating pregnant women’s ability to compete in the Olympics (especially in light of their other discriminatory practices). I was so pleasantly surprised that I decided to look into it. I learned that the IOC has very few eligibility requirements (including specifically stating that there is no maximum age). I also learned that individual sports are further regulated by specific international organizations. Like the IOC, the International Shooting Sport Federation’s eligibility requirements are far more concerned with anti-doping and accepting sponsorships and money than they are with anything else. And I guess I never thought about it before, but that’s how it should be. If you can compete successfully, participate competitively, and represent your country in a fair and sports
manpersonlike way, nothing else should matter.
This is in stark contrast to some non-sports employers, who have throughout history tried to make these choices for pregnant women, in an effort to save them from themselves. I’m thinking specifically of the U.S. Supreme Court case Automobile Workers v. Johnson Controls (499 U.S. 187 (1991), if you must know), in which the Court held that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act forbids companies from restricting pregnant women from working in jobs that could result in lead exposure, as Johnson Controls had done. Unlike Johnson Controls, the IOC and ISSF leaves the decision to compete–essentially, to go to work–up to the individual pregnant competitors themselves.
I love this whole story, and I hope Suryani excels in the Olympics. I am so inspired to see that Suryani is not letting her pregnancy interfere with such an incredible opportunity.