Yoncé has the whole world talking about lemonade. And unless you’ve been completely unplugged from society, you know that’s because of the dramatic release her latest solo album, Lemonade. The album and its visual compliment take listeners and viewers on a journey that chronicles jealousy, heartbreak, infidelity, anger, forgiveness, redemption and freedom. While many focused on Beyoncé’s possible revelation that Jay-Z may have cheated and that one of the possible mistresses could’ve been Rachel Roy (not Ray), for me, one of the loudest messages was that of perseverance in spite of. Throughout Beyoncé’s instant classic there are stories of triumph, the triumph over a broken heart and shattered dreams, the triumph of black women in spite of sexism and racism, the triumph of black people despite systematic violence, the triumph of love despite hate. How can you not love an album about winning (no matter the odds or the obstacles) about making lemonade out of lemons?! You can’t. Love it you must. But y’all didn’t come here for an album review, so that’s not what this is. What it is is a tribute. Lemonade inspired me to think about some GladiatHers who took lemons and made lemonade. So today, in honor of Queen Bey, lemons and women in sports, I give you some of the greatest lemonade makers the world has seen.
Lemon: Colon Cancer
How she made lemonade: Babe Zaharias was one of the most prolific GladiatHers the world has seen, mastering golf, basketball and track and field. In 1953 Zaharias was diagnosed with colon cancer. Rather than bowing out to cancer, Zaharias underwent surgery and a mere 3 months later she was back swinging her golf clubs with a colostomy at her side. Then just 14 months after her surgery, she went on to win the Women’s US Open in 1954 by a record 12 strokes.
Lemon: Crazed, violent “fan”
How she made lemonade: In 1993 a deranged fan stabbed Monica Seles in the back during the Citizen Cup in Germany. Seles took two years off to physically and psychologically heal. But when she came back, she came back with a vengeance. In 1995, she won her returning tournament, the Canadian Open, and went on to win the Australian Open in the following year. Seles would claim a whopping 21 singles titles following the stabbing.
Lemon: Tiger Shark
How she made lemonade: In October 2013, Bethany Hamilton was attacked by a tiger shark while surfing. The shark severed her left arm below just below her shoulder. While the shark may have taken her arm, Hamilton was not going to let it claim her passion. An astonishing three weeks after the attack, she was back on her board, and in little over a year she won her first national surfing title. Since the attack, Hamilton has had a successful career as professional surfer, become a motivational speaker and started a family.
Venus & Serena Williams
Lemon: Crime-Drug Riddled Surroundings
How they made lemonade: Venus and Serena Williams were raised in Compton in the mid and late 1980s, a time when the city was plagued with gang violence, high rates of drug use and homelessness. Rather than be distracted by the circumstances surrounding them, the sisters focused on tennis and their father’s instructions. Their focus paid off, and (you know) they became two of the most dominant players the sport has ever seen.
Lemon: Premature birth & Polio
How she made lemonade: In 1940 Wilma Rudolph was born prematurely and contracted the polio virus at the age of four. From age four until the age of nine she wore a brace on her left leg and wore an orthopedic shoe until she was eleven. Rudolph refused to let polio rob her of her destiny to be a great athlete. By 1956, Rudolph would compete in her first Olympic games and claim a bronze medal as a member of the 4×100 relay. Then in 1960, Rudolph returned to the Olympics and claimed 3 gold medals. Seriously, polio had nothing on Wilma Rudolph.
How she made lemonade: Lolo Jones was born one of five children to a single mother in Des Moines, IA. Her mother worked two jobs to keep her family afloat but the lack of financial stability caused Jones to have to attend eight schools in eight years. At one time, the family even had to move into the basement of a local church. Jones had a dream of being a successful track and field athlete and she refused to let a lack of stability stop her. Jones’ determination led her to multiple NCAA titles, indoor nationals titles, World Indoor Championships, a national record and spots on the United States’ summer and winter Olympic teams.