Page 3 Profile: Billie Jean King, tennis player


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The Independent Online

Why is she back in the news - not out of retirement surely?!

President Obama’s choice of Billie Jean King as one of his Sochi Winter Olympics delegates certainly sends a clear message to the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. The openly gay tennis great is a vocal advocate for sexual equality; unlikely to impress a man who has just signed into law an anti-gay propaganda bill.

Go Obama!

Actually, the US President did not allude to King’s sexuality during the announcement, although a spokesman said the decision “represents the diversity that is the United States”. King will be joined by another openly gay delegate, American ice hockey player Caitlin Cahow.

Remind me about her amazing tennis career...

King won a total of 39 Grand Slam titles (singles, doubles and mixed) and was only the fifth woman in history to achieve a Career Grand Slam, winning the singles title at all four Majors. The former world number one is known for her aggressive style and confidence.

And on the gay rights front?

Off the court, King has spent her time fighting for equality between the sexes. She championed equal prize money for men and women in tennis tournaments and won the Battle of the Sexes match against champ Bobby Riggs in 1973. In the same year she also founded the Women’s Tennis Association and in 2009 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

So what exactly will she be doing in Sochi?

Joining a delegation led by the former homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano, King will represent the US at the opening ceremony on 7 February. It will be the first time since 2000 that America does not send a president, former president, first lady or vice-president to the winter games.

Any words from the woman herself?

“I hope these Olympic Games will indeed be a watershed moment for the universal acceptance of all people,” she said.