25/06/2024

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Column: One last salute to four of our greatest athletes

Column: One last salute to four of our greatest athletes

Serena Williams, of the United States, reacts after her loss to Belinda Bencic, of Switzerland, during the National Bank Open tennis tournament Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

Serena Williams, of the United States, reacts just after her loss to Belinda Bencic, of Switzerland, in the course of the National Bank Open up tennis tournament Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, in Toronto. (Chris Younger/The Canadian Press through AP)

AP

To get in touch with them four of the greatest athletes in the background of women’s sports activities is a bit of a slight.

Let’s just contact them 4 of the greatest.

Time period.

In what should be a melancholy, reflective time for all sporting activities enthusiasts, Serena Williams, Sue Bird, Sylvia Fowles and Allyson Felix have resolved it is really time to go, practically in unison, leaving powering a gaping gap that the subsequent technology will be difficult-pressed to fill.

Simply because these 4 icons are more than just stellar athletes, even though their achievements on courts and tracks around the world go away no doubt they are — and were being — amid the quite ideal to enjoy their athletics.

You can also make a really open up-and-shut scenario that they are leaving a bigger mark away from the arena.

They motivated youthful persons to stick to in their footsteps.

They fought tenaciously when faced with injustice.

They by no means surrendered to regardless of what road blocks had been thrown their way.

They refused to buckle to the standing quo.

They haven’t just make athletics improved. They have manufactured the planet improved.

Williams has not established a organization date for her retirement from tennis, though it seems the stop will appear at the U.S. Open up, which starts Aug. 29 with her 41st birthday approaching.

It really is most likely also substantially to ask for one particular extra Grand Slam singles title, and Williams surely does not have to have it to bolster her legacy.

She’s now received 23 of ’em, much more than anyone other than Margaret Court docket, whose accomplishment comes with an asterisk considering that numerous of her 24 titles came in advance of the open era remodeled tennis.

With the probable exception of Arthur Ashe, no tennis participant produced a bigger effect on modern society at big than Williams.

She is not just an entrepreneur, a manner trailblazer, an trader in women’s enterprise ventures. She’s not just an athlete who raked in great sponsorship specials and claimed a distinguished area in pop culture.

She’s the a person, alongside with major sister Venus, who carved out an completely unique path for Black athletes in a white-dominated sport. When Serena saw racism and intolerance, she in no way shied away from calling it out. Some in the media explained her as prickly and obstinate, but those are common code text for any individual of color who requires to reshuffle a deck that is constantly been stacked versus them.

“She’s transcended tennis and become a leader on numerous important cultural, social and gender challenges,” Chris Evert wrote in a textual content information to AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich. “She has lived an remarkable life, and will undoubtedly carry on to crash the glass ceiling in the potential.”

Even as she geared up for life just after tennis, Williams spoke out on an challenge that male athletes these types of as Tom Brady don’t have to fret about — the delicate balance among parenthood and a skilled profession.

Williams wishes to have yet another child, but she has no motivation to choose on the enormous sacrifice it would consider — specially at her age — to return to tennis after enduring the actual physical toll of a 2nd being pregnant.

“Believe me, I in no way needed to have to pick out amongst tennis and a relatives. I really do not imagine it’s honest,” Williams wrote in an essay that was launched by Vogue journal and also posted on Instagram. ““If I were being a male, I would not be producing this since I’d be out there playing and successful while my wife was executing the bodily labor of expanding our spouse and children.”

Felix, who captured 30 track and subject medals more than her Olympic and planet championship occupation, can unquestionably relate to the requires of currently being a feminine athlete and a mom.

She endured a difficult being pregnant, primary to an crisis C-part to provide her now 3-calendar year-old daughter, Camryn. She also ran up towards the prejudice of a male-dominated hierarchy when Nike wanted to considerably lessen her sponsorship conditions devoid of delivering any ensures that her deal would however be there when she was all set to return to the keep track of.

Felix understood that wasn’t appropriate. She determined to talk out. Nike would finally relent, altering contracts so feminine athletes weren’t penalized for obtaining infants.

“I’m super-happy of all the things that is occurred on the monitor,” the 36-year-outdated Felix reported before her closing opposition at final month’s planet championships, which, in an exciting twist, were being held not far from Nike’s Oregon headquarters.

“But I imagine my major accomplishments are the factors that did not automatically get a medal.”

Chook and Fowles received lots of medals and championships during their groundbreaking occupations on the basketball courtroom.

But, like Williams and Felix, they also stepped up when injustice reared its hideous head.

For the 36-calendar year-previous Fowles, who grew up in a poor Miami neighborhood with a single mom, it took some time to obtain her voice as an activist. She was reticent to discuss up in 2016 when various of her teammates on the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx protested in opposition to police brutality.

But 4 many years afterwards, with the country embroiled in racial turmoil about a white Minneapolis law enforcement officer killing George Floyd, a Black person, Fowles was all set to consider a stand.

“I think 2020 was that turning place where by we all felt like we experienced to say a little something,” Fowles told ESPN, “due to the fact if we did not, then we were not accomplishing justice to what necessary to be finished.”

Chook came out as gay 5 years in the past at the urging of her now-fiancé, U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe.

Considering that then, they have each been vocal advocates for gay and transgender athletes, whilst also lending their assistance to causes these types of as Black Life Issue, voting rights, women’s rights and equitable pay out.

Now, with the WNBA year — and her occupation — winding down, the 41-year-previous Bird is at peace with her determination to retire from hoops. No question, she’s not retiring from lifetime.

“I feel the legacy that she’s left on the activity, and that she’ll be leaving on the activity, is huge,” previous Seattle Storm teammate Lauren Jackson claimed. “But I’m definitely enthusiastic to see what she does next.”

The exact same can be claimed of Williams, Felix and Fowles.

But before they’re absent, one last phrase from the rest of us.

Thanks.

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Paul Newberry is a national sports columnist for The Related Press. Generate to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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Additional AP sporting activities: https://apnews.com/hub/sports activities and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports