Olympic delay let Alex Morgan 'breathe a little bit' while planning return from pregnancy

·5-min read

Alex Morgan prepared throughout her pregnancy to return to the U.S. women’s national team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, even though it was less than three months after her due date. When those games were postponed to July 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a stress reliever.

In her first interview since becoming a mom, Morgan said the delay allowed her to “breathe a little bit” during the final weeks of her pregnancy and not worry about the timeline to come back.

Morgan: Delaying Olympics let me take a breath

Morgan, 31, detailed her thought process to teammate Kelley O’Hara as the first guest on O’Hara’s new podcast, “Just Women’s Sports,” that debuted Tuesday. The two spoke last month about six weeks after Morgan gave birth to her and husband Servando Carrasco’s daughter, Charlie.

“Up until the Olympics were postponed — or canceled [for] this year — I started to get a little more anxious as the weeks got close to me delivering,” Morgan said. “Because I was like, OK, what if she goes past her due date? What if I have to have a C-section. How is that going to affect my recovery?”

The International Olympic Committee announced the Olympics would be postponed a year on March 24, which was approximately one month before Morgan’s due date in April. It allowed the U.S. soccer star to take a step back and not rush through the process. Which was good, because things didn’t go as perfectly as she had planned.

“Although it was such a bummer and devastating to have the Olympics be canceled for this year and still up in the air for next year, for me it was a little bit of a breath of like — I was able to breathe a little bit. I didn’t have to feel like, all right, I’ll have to induce on her due date if she doesn’t come by then. You know, thinking selfishly. I stopped thinking that way and was like OK, she’s going to come on her terms.

“Which she did, she came 10 days late. She needed a little extra help to get out, too, and it kind of just worked out in a way that I was able to really have a relief almost and [let the] stress kind of like leave me at the end of the pregnancy.”

Morgan, who was training in February with the national team at seven months pregnant, gave birth on May 7. The women’s soccer tournament was set to start 11 weeks later on July 22.

Pregnancy recovery looks different for every athlete

Alex Morgan (left) told Kelley O'Hara the Olympic postponement gave her time to breathe after giving birth to her daughter, Charlie. (REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes)
Alex Morgan (left) told Kelley O'Hara the Olympic postponement gave her time to breathe after giving birth to her daughter, Charlie. (REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes)

Former USWNT standout Sydney Leroux was back on the pitch for the Orlando Pride three months after giving birth to Roux, her second child with husband Dom Dwyer. But every woman is different and their experiences are different. Doctors say the body is “recovered” after 6-8 weeks, but it’s not true of everyone. And there’s also not a lot of research for pregnant professional athletes.

Morgan said while pregnant she was always focused on how soon she could get back and felt she was in a “time crunch.” She spoke with Kate Markgraf, the national team’s new general manager who had three children while playing. Markgraf told Morgan to take her time, citing an injury she suffered while rushing back.

Now Morgan is taking it slower using BIRTHFIT, a program that helps and informs through the process. But there’s no “protocol” as there is with a muscle injury. Once Morgan is medically cleared, she will be able to fight for her spot on the team thanks to the “Markgraf Rule” provisions in the collective bargaining agreement.

On equal pay and what fans should know now

O’Hara touched briefly on the U.S. national team’s discrimination lawsuit and the fight for equal pay. She asked Morgan what the star would want people to know about the case that they might not know already.

“That would be one thing that I would want people to know is that we are behind every press release that our publicist puts out. That is the players speaking. Every time that there’s anything that our lawyers put out, that is coming straight from us. The amount of time that we’ve put into this lawsuit and just in general the fight for equal pay has been just immense. Hours among hours of time that I think is being put to really great use and I’ve seen some amazing things come from it within the sport, also with other countries, and just women in general feeling inspired by our story and by us standing up.”

O’Hara added:

“It’s so much bigger than just us and what we’re specifically fighting for in this specific lawsuit. It has the ability to impact the entire world, which gives me hope and keeps me going. And I think it probably does for you, too.”

A judge ruled in May the group’s equal pay lawsuit was insufficient for trial and Morgan, who was past her due date at the time, said on “Good Morning America” the decision was “out of left field for us.” A federal judge denied the request for an immediate appeal and set a trial date of Sept. 15 for the remaining claims of discriminatory work conditions.

O’Hara, an athlete partner with Just Women’s Sports Inc., has Chloe Kim, Candace Parker, Breanna Stewart and fellow athlete partner Hilary Knight coming on the podcast this season.

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