Most of you no doubt know by now that Martina Navratilova has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, a full recovery is expected, thanks in large part to its early detection-the key to beating cancer.
Any coherent list of greatest female athletes would have Navratilova near the top. She has profoundly influenced not only her sport, tennis, but women’s sports generally. What is more, she openly challenged, sometimes at cost to her career, parochial views of gender and sexual orientation.
Reading a piece by Greg Couch of FanHouse.com brought to mind again how remarkably ahead of her time was Navratilova. Long ago, she showed the way to excellence in women’s athletics, how outworn feminine ideals must be shrugged off unabashedly with brawny shoulders. Despite the backsliding we’ve seen at times, the changes that Navratilova and a few other pioneers ushered in seem now to have taken hold, though never should they be taken for granted:
She committed fully to building strength and fitness, which led her to become one of the greatest tennis players of all time, setting up one of sports’ great, all-time individual rivalries with Chris Evert.
Navratilova won that rivalry, but Evert was always the popular one, usually seen as the good guy.
It was something Navratilova had trouble accepting.
As is often the case when someone breaks a mold, it was met with discomfort when she began to bulk up. At the time, her muscular appearance was seen as unfeminine. But she would change women’s sports with it.
Even Evert, bypassed by Navratilova during her career, began lifting weights and improving her fitness, which allowed her to win another major title.
And today, the muscle and strength in women’s tennis and women’s sports in general, a great example to young girls, is almost mandatory.
She is an authentic heroine. We look forward to her full and speedy recovery.