It’s 2014, I’m sitting at the dinner table with my family during what is supposed to be a weekend family lunch. But instead of discussing how our weeks have been, our eyes are glued to the TV. It’s a Saturday afternoon and we’re watching the Wimbledon Singles women’s final: Serena Williams vs. Garbiñe Muguruza. I remember that tense feeling watching Serena rally back from a breakdown to take the first set. I remember being in awe of her serves as she powered those aces across the court. She was also striking some of Muguruza’s returns with the kind of strength I haven’t seen any other female player match to date. Most of all, I remember my parents and I celebrating like crazy because she had done it: Grand Slam number 21.
I watched this final and many others that Serena featured in. Some she won, some she lost, but there was always a grand sense of achievement with each appearance regardless of her form. I’ve previously written about the influences of Black footballers on me, growing up as a Black boy. There’s a lot of talk about Black representation as a way to combat racism and while it’s not a catch-all solution, it can be part of one, especially for the younger generation.
This Black History Month, it’s important that together we can acknowledge and appreciate Black athletes’ contributions not only to sport, but also to the promotion of positive representation. In sharing the impact of one of my favourite sporting heroes and shining a spotlight on just a fraction of what she has been able to achieve, I want to stress that success for me is not measured by the number of Grand Slam titles.
Neither do I measure it by number of goals scored, medals collected, nor world records broken. Instead, my admiration for these athletes comes from seeing a piece of myself, my story, and my experiences in all that they have managed to accomplish, seeing that a part of my own identity is reflected in them.
Representation, for me, is everything.