Breastfeeding Olympians allowed to bring babies to Tokyo

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TORONTO (AP) — Canadian basketball player Kim Gaucher, who is breastfeeding her infant daughter, has won in her quest to bring the baby to the Tokyo Olympics, which she called “the right decision for women in sports.”

The International Olympic Committee announced Wednesday that nursing mothers will now be allowed to bring their babies to Tokyo. The move comes after Gaucher made an emotional plea via Instagram to have 3-month-old Sophie travel with her to the Games.

Gaucher, a 37-year-old from Mission, British Columbia, said the IOC was forcing her to make a tough choice: skip the Olympics or spend 28 days in Tokyo without her daughter.

“We very much welcome the fact that so many mothers are able to continue to compete at the highest level, including at the Olympic Games,” the IOC said in a statement. “We are very pleased to hear that the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee has found a special solution regarding the entry to Japan for mothers who are breastfeeding and their young children.”

Gaucher said she heard the news from her husband Wednesday morning as she was at training camp in Florida.

“I’m incredibly happy and very thankful for all the people who fought for this and helped out with this,” she said. “There can be moments of frustration, but I think women’s sports is evolving and sometimes it takes a little bit of time for everyone to get on the same page. I’m happy that this decision has been made. The right decision for women in sports and we can move forward.”

The IOC had stipulated that no family could travel to Tokyo due to COVID-19 restrictions, but Gaucher pointed out that international media and sponsors may travel to Tokyo and a capped number of Japanese spectators will be allowed in venues.

“Japanese fans are going to be in attendance, the arenas are going to be half full, but I will not have access to my daughter?” Gaucher said in her video. “We’ve tried appeals. Everyone says they’re on board, but nobody can do anything. Let’s see if we can make a difference. It’s 2021. Let’s make working moms normal.”

The new policy affects other athletes who have qualified for Tokyo, including U.S. soccer star Alex Morgan, whose daughter, Charlie, was born in May 2020 and has been able to accompany her mother on the road.

Morgan told reporters in April that it was important “to allow mothers the option to have their kids with them while they compete … if a child is under 1 or 2, they might still be breastfeeding, so that’s a huge piece of it.”

Gaucher and Morgan will both be competing in their third Olympics in Tokyo.

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