Marathoner helps change the game for mothers competing in Olympics

Flagstaff, Arizona — Olympic marathoner Aliphine Tuliamuk thought endurance running was as good as it gets — until she gave birth to her daughter Zoe this year. But after the International Olympic Committee said in March that COVID-19 protocols would prevent breastfeeding moms from bringing their babies to the Summer Games, it looked like Tuliamuk would have to compete without her. 

“I couldn’t imagine,” Tuliamuk said. “I mean, thinking about it still makes me want to cry.” 

But Tuliamuk said dropping out of the Games and giving up her lifelong dream was also unimaginable. “If I decided not to go, what would I tell Zoe when she got older?” she added.

Tuliamuk and her daughter Zoe are seen in a photo.  CBS News

Tuliamuk, who competes for the U.S., appealed by letter to the Olympic Committee — and amid worldwide criticism of the decision, it was reversed in June.

The 32-year-old said that she’s found strength in balancing her roles as a new mom and an elite world athlete, and that she hopes her advocacy will someday inspire her daughter. 

“Women should be empowered to be mothers and pursue their careers,” she said. 

Tuliamuk won the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in February of last year. In her most recent appearance at the world championships in 2017, she placed 15th.