Thursday, September 7, 2023

Quote of the Day (Althea Gibson, on Successfully Defending a Title)

“In sports you simply are not considered a real champion until you have defended your title successfully. Winning it once can be a fluke; winning it twice proves you are the best. I was passionately determined that there wasn't going to be any 'one-shot' tarnish on my Wimbledon championship."—U.S. tennis great Althea Gibson (1927-2003), after winning both the U.S. and Wimbledon titles for a second time in 1958, quoted by Stephen Bierley, “Gibson the Pioneer Passes On,” The Guardian (U.K.), Sept. 28, 2003

This week, as the U.S. Open tennis tournament reaches its climax, many past victors may very well be remembered by commentators and spectators, but let’s hope one in particular is recalled: Althea Gibson, who proved she was a “real champion” 65 years ago this week.

But her achievement occurred not just because she had defended the title successfully, but because she did so at a time when the barriers to African-American accomplishment in sports as well as the rest of American society were so high.

As tennis writer Allison Danzig wrote after a New York ticker-tape parade in Gibson’s honor in 1957: “The girl who was playing paddle tennis on the streets of Harlem some fifteen years ago, found herself, at the age of 30, at the pinnacle of tennisdom.”

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