It’s been a tough year for Venus Williams. Since being diagnosed with Sjorgren’s syndrome in 2011 she has struggled with her health and with her tennis. She withdrew from the Australian Open this winter and lost in the first round of Wimbledon, a tournament she has won five times. If you counted her out at the Olympics you fell for one of the classic blunders because after “getting into a land war in Asia” and “going against a Sicilian when death is on the line,” “counting out a Williams sister in the Olympics” is just about the dumbest thing you can do.
Venus and Serena won the Gold Medal in the women’s doubles for the third time and Serena completed the “Golden Slam” by adding the singles Gold Medal to wins in each of the major tournaments. Coming off her Gold Medal win, Venus Williams chatted with AfterElton’s Evan Mulvihill about her fashion line EleVen, and he snuck in a couple questions for us.
When asked if Billie Jean King has served as a mentor for her Venus responded, “I think Billie Jean King has been a role model for not only me but lots of other people. It’s just like, she’s done so much with women’s rights and Title IX and women’s sports foundations. Just starting the women’s tennis tour. It’s been a legacy that I don’t think will be done again.” The culmination of one joint effort by Williams and King came in 2007 when Wimbledon became the last of the major tournaments to have equal prize money for both the men and the women single’s champion. King fought for a long time for equal pay in tennis and Williams spoke about Wimbledon’s change of heart “It happened, thank God. I was a part of that, and it was a long road there, but I think it fulfilled a lot of dreams for women across the world.”
King has been a role model millions of young athletes over the years and her efforts on their behalf are paying off. This year marked the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX in this country and the dividends the law has paid were on display in London this summer. The American women brought home 58 medals, 29 of them gold. If the American women were their own country they would have ranked fourth in the overall medal count. King has been a driving force for girls and women in this country for decades and has inspired a new generation, including the Williams sisters, to continue her work for the next generation.
If the London Games are any indication we’re in good hands for the future. You don’t want to bet against the Williams sisters again, do you?