At the beginning of the year, in March 2021, the photograph of an Argentine professional basketball player went viral, Antonella González, breastfeeding her 11-month-old daughter on the pitch. The image was surprising because of how unusual the union of professional sports and motherhood continues to be, but athletes have been denouncing for years the difficulties they have to reconcile within the already precarious situation that female sport usually experiences.
On this occasion it has been a Spanish woman who has decided to claim another example of discrimination for athletes who combine their profession and their decision to be mothers as best they can. Just three days before the start of the Tokyo Olympic Games, Ona Carbonell, captain of the national synchronized swimming team, has announced on her social networks that, due to the restrictions of the Japanese Government, she will not be able to continue breastfeeding Kai, her eleven-month-old son, during the two weeks that the tests last.
At first they told her that it was not possible for her son and his partner to accompany her during the games, but after several athletes such as Canadian basketball player Kim Gaucher or American soccer player Alex Morgan protest against the obligation to decide between family conciliation or participation in the event, the swimmer decided to try again. After speaking with the Spanish Olympic Committee, the Higher Sports Council and the International Olympic Committee, whom he thanks for their collaboration, he received the news that he could go with his son as long as he complied with the conditions of the Japanese Government.
Finally, Ona Carbonell has decided not to take her partner or her son to Tokyo, seeing that the necessary measures to make this possible prevented their full participation in the competition, since both would have to be isolated in a hotel and for the breastfeeding the swimmer would have to leave the Olympic Village several times a day, putting the health of all the people on her team at risk.
Our only possibility is to wait for the end of this pandemic for normality to return, and with it the necessary measures to make reconciliation with family and elite sports during a competition easier for everyone.
Ona Carbonell ends by explaining one of her biggest concerns: the possibility that, when she returns three weeks later, her son may have lost the habit of breastfeeding and may have to stop breastfeeding, something that is very important to her.
Several athletes and Spanish public figures such as Marc Márquez, Gemma Mengual, Saúl Craviotto and Paz Vega have already expressed their support on social networks for Carbonell’s demands, defending conciliation in women’s sports and sending messages of encouragement for an athlete who accumulates more of 23 medals in world swimming championships.