Pregnant shooter's Olympics end after 34th-place finish in qualifying

Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi
Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi

LONDON – Her baby kicked inside her – arms stretching, legs flailing – so Nur Suryani Mohammed Taibi clutched her rifle and cooed what any pregnant woman should say while standing in the Olympics with gun in hand.

"Mommy is going to shoot here."

And if that isn't the best story of these Olympics, what possibly is?

[ Photos: Pregnant shooter competes at Olympics ]

Not only is Taibi one of the few pregnant women in Olympic history, but she is also the most pregnant woman in Olympic history. Sometime in the next five weeks the shooter from Malaysia is going to give birth to a girl. The girl already has a name: Dayana Widyan. And Dayana Widyan has grown so large inside her mother that Taibi's coach Natalia Zhukova worried her student might have her baby before the Olympics even began.

But Taibi is headstrong. She reveals this matter-of-factly, in a tiny voice with a mild accent. And when she learned months ago that she was going to have a baby just weeks after the Olympics were over, she had no doubt what she was going to do. She would go to London for two.

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Perhaps by the luck of schedule, her event, the 10-meter air rifle, came in the first hour of the Games' first day. And so by 10 a.m. on Saturday her Olympics were over after she finished 34th in the qualifying round. Yet this was never about winning a medal. Taibi came to London ranked 47th in the world in the 10m air rifle. She wasn't going to make it past the qualifying event, pregnant or not. This was about something bigger than a hunk of medal on a string.

"I think that I can do whatever I want to because I'm quite stubborn," she said "Anything I want to do, I will do."

Her husband, Marhazli B. Mhotar, is stubborn too, she said. A policeman back in Malaysia, he worried about her going to the Olympics. He wasn't sure he wanted her to fly to London or compete or do anything that seemed unsafe. He has told her he doesn't want her to have a natural childbirth, but the rather more predictable cesarean. Of the two of them, he is the one who frets the most, she said.

"But I'm more stubborn than him," Taibi said with a smile.

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And on Saturday morning Mhotar was in the stands while his wife stood inside a makeshift indoor shooting range at the Royal Artillery Barracks, firing her gun at a piece of paper. When Taibi was done and it was clear her Olympics were through, Mhotar fought through a crowd of reporters and photographers, leaned over a rail, and hugged her as best he could. Then he kissed her. When Mhotar was done, Taibi calmly kneeled down, in the black full-length shooting suit specially made for her ever-expanding body, and began to pack her shooting equipment into a hard-shell suitcase.

"I feel good, I feel nervous," Mhotar said in English much more broken than his wife's. "I'm nervous because my baby is inside her. I think…"

He stopped. He was very nervous indeed.

"I think I don't know what to say," he continued.

Most of those around Taibi have worried. Her husband and coaches have agonized over not only this trip, but the pregnancy itself. What if she can't move? What if something happens to the baby? Is it really a good idea to fly to London?

Taibi told Zhukova she was pregnant months ago, while at a tournament in Qatar. Immediately, the coaches were filled with all kinds of concerns. They fretted every day until Friday, the day before the competition, when it was clear Taibi wouldn't be going into labor and she would make her 9 a.m. Saturday date at the rifle range.

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Strangely the calmest person in all of this is the one with the baby squirming inside. Taibi smiled and laughed easily as she moved through the shooting range and then out to interviews on a crisp sunny morning. She pulled a traditional white scarf over her head, attaching it with a clasp just below her chin. She looked happy. Her words seemed to dance.

Taibi grabbed her stomach from under a robe and said the child seems to be fine. Her doctor found it strange when she first raised the possibility of going to the Olympics while eight months pregnant, she said, but the doctor also approved the trip. There were no health issues to keep her from doing so.

Someone asked Taibi what would have happened if she had gone into labor and become the first athlete to give birth at an Olympics.

"If she wants to come out here I say with an open heart, no problem," she said.

On Saturday morning, Dayana Widyan stayed inside her mother. There would be no surprises. Her mother would shoot a gun in the Olympics and then prepare to leave London in three days to go home and prepare to have a baby.

Taibi hopes she can come back to the Olympics in four years. By then her baby will be a little girl, old enough to understand that she and her mother had been famous around the world. By then she will have undoubtedly seen the photographs that appeared on the Internet and in newspapers, and she will be able to say something no one else can say.

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"I will tell her she is very lucky," Taibi said. "She was in her first Olympics before being born yet."

And then the mother in her special shooting suit and white head scarf, looking every bit of her eight pregnant months, walked away. She took her rifle – packed in a long padded sack – and headed off into the morning.

The best story of these Games was gone before they had barely started.

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