Today, history was made. The kickass, amazing Serena Williams was officially announced as Sports Illustrated‘s Sportsperson of the Year, marking the first time in over 30 years that the magazine has honored a female athlete on her own.
This year, 34-year-old Serena came within two matches of tennis’s first calendar-year Grand Slam since 1988. In her sixth Wimbledon, she won her 4th consecutive Grand Slam title, as well as the 21st title of her career. She also went 53-3 in 2015 with five titles and was number one in the WTA rankings for the entire year. You know, NBD.
“She was the most deserving person for the award,” Paul Fichtenbaum, editor of the Sports Illustrated Group, said in a statement. “She had an amazing year. The way she won her events; the fact that she’s done this for so many years at such a high level. She was a terrific candidate in a year of terrific candidates.” Serena’s excellent numbers prove Fichtenbaum’s statement to be ultimate truth, as Sports Illustrated notes in its announcement today:
But it wasn’t only the numbers that made Serena the perfect candidate for the title; it’s essential to note her sheer commitment to the sport, even against all odds, when her body was rebelling against her:
She worked through it and kept on playing, even through the flu, through a 101-degree fever and congestion, through chills — none of these things stopped her from smashing the competition during Roland Garros. “I was crying so hard,” Serena told Sports Illustrated. “I didn’t want to win. I just wanted to go home. I said, ‘I can’t play anymore.’ ” But her achievements aren’t just on the court. Serena has also been championing self-love and body image in interviews, and in September, perfectly shut down a reporter who asked her why she wasn’t smiling (a question women seem to be asked way too often). The announcement also marks a major departure from tradition in terms of the name of the title: Sports Illustrated always called their winners Sportsman or Sportswoman of the Year, but they’ve officially changed it to “Sportsperson.” “We just felt this was a natural evolution. . . We’re not making a huge deal out of it,” Fichtenbaum said in a statement. “It just feels like the right time to make the change.”
“This year was spectacular for me,” Serena wrote in an Instagram post about the title today. “For @SportsIllustrated to recognize my hard work, my dedication, and my sheer determination gives me hope to continue on and do better. . . This is not just an accomplishment for me, but for my whole team. I am beyond honored.”
And honored you should be, Serena — but it was a win you truly deserved. Congratulations, and we can’t wait to see the amazing things you bring to the court and beyond in 2016.
(Image via Sports Illustrated/Instagram)