First, Olympic gold for sisters, now time to start families

TERESA M. WALKER (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

Everything about 2018 is going almost exactly to plan for Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson.

The twin sisters scratched off the first item on their to-do list by helping the United States end a 20-year gold medal drought at the Olympics. Monique scored the tying goal late in regulation and Jocelyne clinched the Americans' first Olympic championship in women's hockey since 1998 with the final, dazzling goal in a shootout against rival Canada in South Korea.

Then came some family time. It turns out the sisters from North Dakota are in synch both on and off the ice.

Lamoureux-Morando and her husband, Anthony, are expecting a boy in mid-December. Jocelyne and her husband, Brent, are due seven weeks later. The twins wanted to get going as quickly as possible before turning their attention to trying to earn a spot on a fourth Olympic team that should be among the favorites to win gold in Beijing in 2022.

''Nothing ever really works out the exact way you want it to, but this way coming back from the Olympics with a gold medal and being able to start a family right away is really all we could've asked for,'' Lamoureux-Morando said.

Taking time off to focus on family is easier in part thanks to a new labor deal with USA Hockey reached after the Lamoureux sisters and their U.S. teammates threatened to boycott the 2017 world championships. Not only did Olympic gold mean an extra $20,000 for each player, they got a bump in pay up to $4,000 per month in the four-year deal, with the ability to make around $71,000 annually and up to $129,000 in Olympic years.

For the Lamoureux sisters, the maternity leave benefit in the contract is crucial. They receive a full stipend paid by USA Hockey during their pregnancies and then get a stipend to help with child care. Once cleared by a doctor, they can earn their way back onto the national team, with invites to next two evaluation camps.

''Hopefully that changes the landscape for our national team,'' Lamoureux-Davidson said. ''You see it in women's soccer, women's basketball. There's more moms playing, and so we hope that we can kind of be the next generation of moms that continue to play hockey and kind of display you can do what you're passionate about and have a family at the same time.''

Tennis has grappled publicly with how to account for a player's status when she returns from a pregnancy. As of now, players can gain entry to a limited number of tournaments based on their pre-pregnancy ranking - the same rule that governs time missed due to injury - but it's up to each individual tournament to decide whether to seed her based on her previous standing.

Serena Williams found herself penalized for taking time off for the birth of her daughter. The French Open refused to seed Williams earlier this year , even though she was the world's No. 1-ranked player when she left the tour to give birth. Tournament organizers argued that Williams was ranked No. 453 at the time the Grand Slam was seeded. She was seeded higher than her ranking at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

In their new contract reached last year with U.S. Soccer , women got increased benefits for players who become pregnant or adopt a child. U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe said players will keep working for more if they want to start a family. Under the previous deal, national team players were paid half their salary while on maternity leave.

''It should be a basic right, and we want to try to offer that to everyone, and I think the federation is on board,'' Rapinoe said. ''We've had benefits for mothers for a long time, maternity leave, different provisions in our contracts, nannies, they have an option to have some travel with them.''

In the WNBA, player contracts are not guaranteed. A team can cut a pregnant player, meaning her benefits will soon expire, or pay half salary if she cannot play while pregnant.

If a player can't play even one regular-season game, she misses out on any team bonuses. A pregnant player cannot sign a contract without telling the team first. The league's current CBA, which expires in 2021, also does not include family planning services or fertility benefits.

Candace Parker returned to play in the WNBA the season after becoming a mother, while both Glory Johnson and Dewanna Bonner returned after giving birth to twins.

''The WNBA is a longstanding league for professional athletes who happen to be women,'' the WNBA Players Association said in a statement. ''And we - the union and the league - need to demonstrate a greater awareness in addressing the players' particular needs. Hopefully, that includes implementing policies that support players who are mothers so that they can return to their careers as professional basketball players at the appropriate time.''

If not pregnant, the Lamoureux sisters might be playing again with the Minnesota Whitecaps with Hannah Brandt, Lee Stecklein and Kendall Coyne-Schofield, who got married this summer.

The rest of the U.S. Olympic team is largely back on the ice. Goalie Maddie Rooney, who stopped Meghan Agosta's final shot to seal the gold medal, is at Minnesota-Duluth. Emily Pfalzer got engaged to Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson and now is back in the NWHL with the Buffalo Beauts, while Hilary Knight is with the CWHL's Les Canadiennes in Montreal.

The twins have been working as spokeswomen for Comcast, handing out laptops to children, promoting gender equity, reaching out to veterans and touting internet access for low-income Americans during stops in Georgia, Florida and Tennessee. Having Olympic gold has given them a platform that they didn't enjoy previously, even as two-time Olympians.

''We understand that if we want, we can do a lot of positive things with that,'' Lamoureux-Morando said.

The sisters also are continuing to train while pregnant. Not pushing as hard as possible isn't an easy change for hockey players used to wringing out the last drop of sweat; they are now training for two.

''As far as us being athletes, I think 2022 is definitely the end goal,'' Lamoureux-Morando said. ''There's certainly a lot that's going to happen between now and then. But right now we're essentially training to make sure our birthing process goes as easily as possible and putting ourselves in position to bounce back as quick as possible after giving birth.''

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AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson and AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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