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Pregnant shooter does baby proud
The first medal event in the 2012 Summer Olympics was an event that requires stillness, concentration and total control over your body. In the women’s 10-meter air rifle on Saturday morning, 59 women stood side by side in a packed indoor shooting arena at the Royal Artillery Barracks. Earplugs were jammed in their ears. Their firearms made a constant plink, plink, plink as the athletes fired .177-caliber pellets, barely a step up from a BB gun, toward a target 10 meters away.
The target they’re shooting for, called a 10-ring, is tinier than tiny, .5 millimeters, about the size of this period. Miss that spot by even a millimeter more than three times in your 40 shots? You’ll likely miss the eight-shooter final round. It’s a sport that values introversion over expressiveness, and that needs body and mind perfectly aligned to have a shot at the medal stand.
So you can imagine the conversations that Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi – a 29-year-old Malaysian shooter who traveled to her first Olympics despite being 34 weeks pregnant with her first child – was having with that baby on Saturday morning.
“I say, ‘OK, calm, be calm, mommy’s going to shoot,’ ” Mohamed Taibi said after her competition was finished. “Luckily, she stops then.”
The round-faced officer in the Royal Malaysian Navy with the protruding belly did not end up making the finals on Saturday. She finished in 34th place, better than nearly half the others and higher than her world ranking of 47th. Afterwards, as her husband, a police officer named Marhazli Mhotar, fought through a half-moon of television cameras surrounding his wife, her smile was huge, and her big brown eyes glowed. She may have missed hitting the 10-ring eight times in her 40 shots, each time by no more than a few millimeters, but she set an Olympic record anyway: The furthest-along of all the pregnant women who’ve competed in the Olympics. Her due date is in early September.
“My baby is my baby, and luckily, she behaved today,” Mohamed Taibi said. “I feel calm, not really stressed, confident. I know that I tried my best. … I’m just like the other people. I have a big stomach is all. Just think that we are like normal people, not pregnant woman.”
It’s a nice, humble thought, that Mohamed Taibi was just like the other athletes competing beside her. It wasn’t true. One reason is because even something as simple as a long walk can put her in discomfort at this stage of pregnancy. Another reason is her extra-large shooting suit that her tailor altered: “I just said, make it bigger for a pregnant woman. He said, ‘OK, give me one week.’ ” And then there’s the fact that, in this sport that values body rigidity and perfect balance, even one ill-timed kick from the baby could wildly throw off her score.
Given the circumstances, this was a virtuoso performance. The head of the Malaysian delegation, who came to watch Mohamed Taibi, proclaimed her a national star.
“She proved herself in a most tremendous way,” said the Malaysian chef de mission, Tun Ahmad Sarji. “Despite her conditions, she did most remarkably well. Very well, despite all the attention given.”
“I’m so proud of my wife,” her beaming husband, Marhazi Mohtar, a Malaysian police officer, told FOXSports.com. “How she competed, and that she competed.”
One would think that, as soon as competition was over, the eight-month-pregnant athlete would be jetting back home. But no. Mohamed Taibi had talked it over with her husband, and if their first child was born in London during the Olympic Games, they would accept and celebrate it. She’s a stubborn young lady. She set her mind to making an Olympic Games years ago. Her husband supported her 100 percent, even after they learned of the pregnancy. And she didn’t come halfway across the world to head back home as soon as her event was over.
“I’m quite stubborn,” she said. “When I say I’m going to do, I’m going to do.”
She has three days left in London before she heads home. And what she said she’s going to do? Go shopping.
Follow Reid Forgrave on Twitter @reidforgrave or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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