In 2017, Serena Williams, the famous American Tennis player made history when she won her 23rd Grand Slam title at the 2017 Australian Open. The feat was unprecendant because no tennis player in the history of the sport, male or female, had ever won 23 Grand Slams.
January of 2018, Lindsey Vonn becomes the first woman and second skier in history to win over 80 World Cup races in downhill skiing. Currently at 81 wins, she is just shy of beating the all-time World Cup record set by champion Ingemar Stenmark who has 85. A record that Lindsey has her eyes on.
For Serena and Lindsey, the acronym you might be looking for is G.O.A.T. or Greatest of All Time. A phrase given to such athletes including Tom Brady, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and of course, Serena Williams and Lindsey Vonn.
Serena and Lindsey have a lot in common, despite coming from different backgrounds, different sports and even different colors of their skins. What brings them together is there passion and intensity they bring to their sport. The resilience, persistence, and refusal to give up when they fall and to keep moving forward is what made them both into the champions they are today. Being at the top of their sport, winning world championships, Olympic medals and the hearts of millions, if not billions of people. They are the GOAT in their respective sports, and at one point in their careers, both have sought to compete against men on the same level.
Serena, in 1998 took on such a challenge. Being fresh faced, young and just starting out. She wanted to prove that women and men could compete equally and challenged John McEnroe to a Battle of the Sexes Round 2. Unfortunately, the match did not prove well for Serena’s case when both her and her sister Venus lost their matches. However, 20 years later the question still begs, can women and men compete equally? With Serena in her top form just before her pregnancy, could she fare a better chance against the likes of Rafael Nadel or Roger Federer?
That’s the very question Lindsey Vonn is asking, albeit in her own context with skiing. Lindsey has made it clear her intention to pursue skiing in the men’s division in downhill skiing. Unlike Tennis, Downhill Skiing have a few differences in the men’s and women’s division other than just athletes and prize money. For the longest time, men’s races took place on steep slopes with sharp turns and fast speeds, whereas the women would have to settle for a slower, softer, easier course to manage. Thankfully this has improved in recent years as women have shown to be just as capable as men in handling such intense courses. If women and men can race on the same course, why can’t they race each other and still be competitive? This is the question that Lindsey Vonn is seeking an answer for.
Can we truly call Serena and Lindsey or any of the men, the G.O.A.T. if they can’t compete against all the potential competitors in their sport? When Serena returns to the top of her game following her pregnancy, will she choose to rematch for Battle of the Sexes Round 3? Can Lindsey Vonn race competitively against men? There’s no reason why they can’t, Billie Jean King has proven that. By showing the world what they are capable of, with every championship, every record and every medal. Serena and Lindsey are setting the stage, even if they don’t get their chance to compete against the men. A young girl out there who is inspired by them most certainly will.
By Dirk Smith