Winter sports athletes and their kids on World Children's Day

On World Children's Day we check out those winter sports athletes juggling parenthood with Olympic dreams.

By Jo Gunston
Picture by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

On World Children's Day, Saturday 20 November, takes a look at those athletes who juggle parenthood with Olympic Winter Games ambitions.

Camilla and Rebecca Valcepina, for example, are likely the youngest ever Olympic Winter Games medallists given they were weeks-old embryos at the time. The twins won bronze at Sochi 2014 along with their mother, Martina Valcepina and the rest of the Italian short track speed skating team in the 3000m relay final.

It appears there were no complaints about the additional team members from the other competitors in the race, possibly because Martina was also a member of Italy’s police force.

At PyeongChang 2018, the twins were four years old, and this time their mum came away with a silver medal in the same event. Could it be the next step up on the podium at Beijing 2022 for the now 29-year-old in front of her now eight-year-old Olympic babies?

There’s something about police officers… Amelie Kober, a German Federal Police Officer had already competed at the parallel giant slalom event at Turin 2006 showing great resilience, despite being the youngest in the field, to get back up despite falling in the quarter-finals and going on to win silver.

During the same event at Vancouver 2010 she was this time carrying the youngest competitor, her son Lorenz. No trinkets were won for her soon-to-be born baby at that Olympic Games, but come Sochi 2014, Kober brought back a shiny bronze medal for her then four-year-old son.

Olympic pedigree

Beijing 2022 is quite the focus in the Watabe household along with their new baby. Watabe Akito is aiming for that elusive gold in the individual Nordic combined event at Beijing 2022 having placed second at both Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018.

His wife, Yurie, meanwhile, was a freestyle skier, retiring in 2019. She finished down the field at the Republic of Korea Games but can nevertheless still call herself that most precious of titles, an Olympian. Akito’s younger brother, Yoshito, also competes in Nordic combined skiing, so Watabe junior has quite the snowsport pedigree in the family tree.

Mexican Alpine skier Sarah Schleper not only has two children but she has named them after fellow skiers. The four-time Olympian has a son named after Lasse Kjus, the Norwegian Alpine skier and five-time Olympic medallist (including gold at his home Games at Lillehammer 1994 in the combined event). She named her daughter after United States slalom specialist and three-time Olympian, Resi Stiegler.

In Schleper's last race for the US before competing for Mexico – she has dual nationality due to her Mexican husband – she famously picked up Lasse and skied the rest of the run before crossing the line with him in her arms. The 42-year-old is hoping to qualify for Beijing 2022, and even the next Winter Olympic Games after that – Milano Cortina 2026 – the first Games at which son Lasse could conceivably compete.

Anaïs Chevalier-Bouchet’s instagram biography reads, ‘Biathlon France’ and ‘Maman d’Emie’. The bronze medallist from PyeongChang 2018, who also competed at Sochi 2014, is looking for more gongs come Beijing 2022 to bring home to her daughter and husband, Martin Bouchet, a former biathlete himself. Emie’s aunty, Chloe Chevalier, is also a biathlete so Emie will have plenty of coaching options should she decide to pursue the sport in the future.

David Wise had just won his second consecutive gold medal in men's halfpipe, this time at PyeongChang 2018, when his three-year-old son, Malachi decided to join him on the podium. David’s wife Alexandra then joined in, along with six-year-old daughter Nayeli, making it quite the family photo. Wise aims to make it a threepeat come Beijing 2022.

David Wise of the United States celebrates with his family after winning gold in the Freestyle Skiing Men's Ski Halfpipe Final on day thirteen of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Phoenix Snow Park on February 22, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.
Picture by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Chinese short track skating couple Liu Qiuhong and Han Tianyu share baby son, Leo. Now retired, Liu is a five-time world championship medallist in the 3000m relay. Her best Olympic Games result was at Sochi 2014 when she just missed the podium, placing fourth in the 500m.

LIU Qiuhong and HAN Tianyu with their son, Leo

Han, meanwhile, won silver and bronze at Sochi 2014 in the 1500m and 5000m relay, respectively, plus silver in the relay at PyeongChang 2018. Han is still training together with the Chinese short track team and trying to compete for a spot in the Beijing 2022 Olympic team.

This time last year, Russian ice hockey player Alexander Ovechkin took his then three-year-old son, Sergei, to the rink to see if his oldest child had the same aptitude for the sport as he did. Ovechkin senior is a three-time world champion and triple Olympian, but it’s unlikely junior has improved enough in the past year to make it to the Beijing 2022 Olympic team at the grand old age of four. Second son, Ilya, born May 2020, hasn’t got long to wait either, no doubt, before his booties change to skates.


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