"I knew that I was an unusual, talented girl through the grace of God. I didnt need to prove that to myself. I only wanted to prove it to my opponents."
Born to Win is the first and only fully authorized biography of the late great Althea Gibson, the first African American to break the color line in tournament tennis. Cowritten by Frances Clayton Gray, who was Gibsons confidante and caretaker and is now executor of her estate, and journalist Yanick Rice Lamb, this authorized biography sheds new light on Gibson, from her childhood in Harlem and her ten-year reign as champion of the all-black American Tennis Association to her historic 1950 debut at Forest Hills and her momentous victories of 1957 and 1958, when she swept both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
This riveting account reveals how Gibson distinguished herself as a champion in a long and diverse athletic career, helping to pave a path for such modern-day sports phenomena as Tiger Woods and Venus and Serena Williams. A strong-willed child who skipped school frequently and had a reputation for being a tough girl, Gibson nevertheless developed a solid work ethic and a desire for independenceand was a natural athlete to boot. Youll follow her as she picks up a tennis racket for the first time and goes on to compete in her first tournament, setting the stage for a remarkable journey.
At 5 feet 11, Gibson had the height, speed, and reach to dazzle a crowd by returning shots that seemed guaranteed to get away, and she devised brilliant strategies to zero in on her opponents weaknesses. She garnered international acclaim, earned numerous titles, and set records that have yet to be broken. Yet, while people of all colors celebrated her triumphs, Althea also battled discrimination, naysayers who questioned her wins, and reporters who wondered whether success was going to her head. Even as she broke barriers, others would fall into place. Youll hear from Gibson herself, as well as her family and supporters, as she faces numerous challenges that sharpen her game, strengthen her confidence, and test her resolve.
Youll also see how an ongoing series of personal disappointments, slights, and setbacks stoked an underlying bitterness in Gibsoneven as she continued to make contributions that transcended race and gender and set an example for younger players. And youll discover how she helped revolutionize the entire universe of sports, making strides that have benefited everyone from Billie Jean King to Mia Hamm to Arthur Ashe.
Complete with more than 35 rare photographs, some of which are being presented for the first time, Born to Win deftly and reverently traces Althea Gibsons shining legacy from the hard times to the glory years, providing inspiration for generations to come.
The first African-American woman to win both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, Gibson (1927-2003) was one of the most gifted athletes, male or female, of the second half of the 20th century. Despite her talent, which reached its zenith in the 1950s and early '60s, little has been written about her, save for her own 1958 autobiography, long out of print. Unfortunately, this effort from Gray, cofounder of the Althea Gibson Foundation, and journalist Lamb comes up short. While all the highlights of Gibson's rise from the streets of Harlem to Wimbledon, from professional tennis to professional golf are here, there's little insight into Gibson herself. This is particularly disappointing since Gray was a Gibson confidante who had the athlete's friends' and family's cooperation. Gray tends to gush about Gibson's many triumphs while largely overlooking her shortcomings. She even glosses over the difficult physical and financial situation Gibson faced during the 1990s after suffering a stroke, delivering a superficial look at this trailblazing woman. A more rounded and better written portrait of Gibson appears in Bruce Schoenfeld's The Match: Althea Gibson & Angela Buxton: How Two Outsiders One Black, the Other Jewish Forged a Friendship and Made Sports History, which Amistad published in June. 40 b&w photos. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.