This year was spectacular for me. For @SportsIllustrated to recognize my hard work, my dedication, and my sheer determination gives me hope to continue on and do better. As I always say, it takes a village it’s not just one person. This is not just an accomplishment for me, but for my whole team. I am beyond honored. I love you guys! 2016? #letsdoit ❤️💋
Serena Williams is the first woman to be crowned Sports Illustrated‘s Sportsperson of the Year since track champion Mary Decker clinched the honour in 1983. After 32 years, this is a big Gatorade-dumping deal! On the mag’s cover, released Monday, Williams can be seen lounging quite comfortably upon a gilded throne. Her face seems to say, “Who else did you expect?” (In truth, many commenters were anticipating the winner to be a Triple Crown–winning stallion, but you can’t have it all, American Pharoah.)
Much will be made about Williams’ cavalier “come at me” posture, or her vampy lace unitard or, inevitably, those legs. And indeed, Williams’ powerful curves cut a pretty revolutionary silhouette when plastered on any magazine’s front page — let alone that of a sports title.
But, uh, yeah — there’s no question that Serena Williams, world-class athlete, has a great body. It’s the same powerful machine that allows her to regularly crush serves like flowers underfoot. Or win a career total of $74 million in prize money. Or three of this year’s four Grand Slam events. If we want to truly capitalize on this very real watershed moment for women in sport, we would do well to take our eyes off of her body and instead examine the blistering, champion’s record Williams’ practiced physique allowed her to achieve.
The measure of an athlete isn’t exclusive to their quad girth, either. In addition to winning 53 of her 56 matches in 2015, Williams has, as she told SI, “been a little more vocal” of late, using her mantle to wade into activism, enrolling in an online history of civil rights class at the University of Massachusetts and lending her voice to the Black Lives Matter movement. In March, she returned to Indian Wells after a 14-year self-imposed exile from the tournament following racist abuse from fans.
On her activism, SI‘s S.L. Price wrote: “There’s also this social component. And I think Serena — to mix metaphors — hit it out of the park in both senses.”
Now that she’s 34, Williams is contending with swirling will-she-won’t-she retirement speculation. But if this past year is any indication, even the fastest Kentucky colt is going to have to clock plenty of overtime to keep up with Serena Williams.