Today, we continue our #HonoringHistory series honoring black athletes who transcended sport. These athletes inspired others to do more than just excel in sport, but they encouraged nations to excel in life.
As we have said, this is not an all-encompassing list whatsoever, but we have chosen athletes who we felt help mold those who have come after them and continue to inspire others through their story.
Venus and Serena Williams
Their success in the sport of tennis is well-documented. Venus led the way as the oldest sister, but soon was eclipsed by Serena who now has a term coined after her ability to win 4 Grand Slam tournaments in a row – “The Serena Slam.” But what is most important is what their success off the court has meant to women all around the world.
When Venus was just 25 years old, she fought hard for equal pay for women on the tennis court. She recognized the gap, and she did something about it. Sitting in front of the powers that be and proclaiming that she wanted to see equal pay in her lifetime, and she was successful. In 2007, Wimbledon awarded an equal amount of money to both the women’s and men’s singles tournament winner.*
Serena’s efforts off the court are less public than her older sister, but The Serena Williams Foundation helps many underprivileged children achieve their dreams of going to college. Each year, her foundation awards scholarships to children in a similar situation as her and her sister to allow them to pursuit their goals.*
Hats off to the Williams sisters.
How many of you can backflip? How many of you would be willing to attempt a backflip on ice? And how about a backflip while ice-skating and landing on one foot?
Surya Bonaly made a name for herself not just by performing this illegal move in Olympic play during her routines, but also because she saw success in competition as well. Surya may not have been American, but she inspired many young girls who may have thought you need to look or act a certain way in order to pursuit a certain sport to participate anyway.*
A silver medal in 1984. Gold in 1988 and 1992. Joyner-Kersee truly inspired any and all children who are growing up in a rough situation to pursuit their dreams no matter what obstacles get in the way.
From East St. Louis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee saw true success in being a heptathlete. She was the first athlete to register more than 7,000 points in that event. Her effortless style transcended a sport and encouraged many women to follow their hearts and do what makes them happy. Her ability to overcome hurdles in life motivated many, and she will always be heralded as one of the best athletes to ever grace the Olympics.*
These 4 women transcended sports, inspired many young women, and spearheaded change in a significant way. Our hats are off to these strong women.
Do you have a woman in your life who has motivated you to new heights? Give them a public mention online using the hashtag #HonoringHistory! Thanks for being a fan.
1)Serena Williams – http://www.livingly.com/Inspiring+Women/articles/g8ohkHaQrXT/5+Reasons+Serena+Williams+Fantastic+Role+Model
2)Venus Williams – http://espn.go.com/espnw/w-in-action/nine-for-ix/article/9441441/venus-williams-equality-change-espnw
3) Surya Bonaly – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/15/surya-bonaly-birthday-figure-skater_n_6327092.html
4) Jackie Joyner-Kersee – https://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00016055.html