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Sports Then and Now



Biggest Milestones in U.S. Women’s Sports History 6

Posted on July 23, 2011 by Jena Ellis

Wilma Rudolph was the first American woman to win three Gold Medals in a single Olympics.

America’s heartbreaking loss to Japan in the Women’s World Cup final, though painful, was hardly a setback for women’s sports in this country. During this summer, the world’s No. 1 team provided enough drama to captivate men and women from coast to coast, drawing large television audiences and even setting a Twitter record of 7,196 tweets per second. Hope Solo and Abby Wambach became household names and served as inspiration for girls who strive to play soccer and other sports at the highest levels. None of it would’ve happened, however, without the following milestones. Each one marked an important moment in not just women’s sports history, but sports history.

1. President Nixon makes Title IX a reality (1972)
Signed into law by the socially moderate President Nixon, Title IX specified that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Participation in women’s sports has grown significantly in the decades following its passage, as a 2008 study indicated that women’s college athletics has expanded to 9,101 teams (8.65 per school).

2. Wilma Rudolph wins three gold medals (1960)
Women’s track and field became one of the Olympics’ flagship events thanks to Rudolph, who became the first American woman to secure three gold medals (100m, 200m, 4 x 100m relay) during the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. Dubbed “the fastest woman in history,” a worldwide audience was able to witness her blazing speed on television, enabling her popularity to soar. Her impact was especially felt in the US, where a demand for equality was just beginning to manifest.

3. Women’s soccer wins its second World Cup (1999)

This one was extra special because the US was the host country, allowing the women’s soccer team to demonstrate its talent before pro-American home crowds, interest that even surprised the players. Never before had America rallied behind a women’s team in such a manner — most people forgot about the gender distinction and milestones, and just rode the wave of patriotism to the final. That’s when, of course, Brandi Chastain memorably connected on the game-winning penalty kick, ripping off her jersey in exuberance. With 90,185 fans in attendance, it became the most-attended women’s sporting event in history. At the time, it garnered a remarkable 11.4 rating, the most-watched soccer game in US television history and one-tenth of a point higher than the average rating of that summer’s NBA Finals. Read the rest of this entry →

Who’s No. 1? 16 Women in Tennis Who Held the Top Spot Longest 22

Posted on February 27, 2011 by JA Allen

Two women who dominated on tour: Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.

Points given in a WTA sponsored tennis tournament are used to calculate a players ranking and who ultimately is the No. 1 player on the women’s tour.

Points gained are totaled for one year. Then as the event rolls around again on the calendar, the points earned last year fall off and new points won replace them.

Various tournaments have different point values with the slams offering the most points. For example, the winner of a major receives 2000 ranking points.

The further a player advances in the tournament, the more points she will earn.

Ultimately for the women on tour, only the player’s best 17 tournaments count toward total ranking points. That means a player cannot simply add to her ranking total by entering every tournament.

Historically, for the women’s tour, ranking did not even appear as a statistic until 1921.

Back then rankings were subjective, based on human observation, often a professional panel. Certainly there was no universal system. Calculation of rankings were not point-based until 1975.

Despite the inadequacies of past record-keeping, evidence exists that indicate a number of very talented female players held the No. 1 ranking and dominated the women’s game prior to 1975.

We will use prior subjective rankings and convert those records to an appropriate number of weeks in order to rank the dominance of the top 16 female tennis players since 1921.

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U.S. Open Tennis: Greatest Lady Champions of the Modern Era 3

Posted on August 17, 2010 by JA Allen

Great Rivalries built the women's game into a prime spectator sport.

Heading into the 2010 U.S. Open, uncertainty reigns as several of the top seeds are currently sidelined with injuries.

First of all are the reports of Serena Williams’ recovery from foot surgery––leading to speculation that the younger Williams sister may not be fit enough to challenge for the U.S. Open championship.

Additionally will be the absence of Justine Henin with a right elbow injury suffered during a fall at Wimbledon. The pain and suffering could extend perhaps to Venus Williams who has pulled out of both Cincinnati and Montreal with pain in her left knee that prevents her from practicing.

Add to that wounded Russian Maria Sharapova who battled Kim Clijsters in the final in Cincinnati pulling out of the Rogers Cup after twisting her ankle during the match.

The end result is that a clear favorite for being crowned as this year’s champion remains shrouded in doubt––even though the odds seem to favor the younger Williams sister.  Will she notch another win in New York?

As we rate the top U.S. Open champions since 1968 on the women’s side, we look at both the number of final wins plus the number of appearances in U.S. Open finals.  If those are equal we look at the total winning percentages of each player.

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Queens of the Court: Margaret Court, The Champion Among Champions 13

Posted on December 06, 2009 by Marianne Bevis
Court Eyes The Ball

Margaret Smith Court stills holds the record for most Grand Slam singles titles (24) and most overall Grand Slam titles (62).

Let’s start at the top. There is, for Margaret Court more than any other player—man or woman—no other place to begin. For Court stands at the very top of tennis’ list of achievements.

Try this. She won a total of 62 Grand Slam titles: next in line is Martina Navratilova with 59, and both outstrip the next, Billie Jean King, at a mere 39. (The top man? Roy Emerson with 28.)

What about this? Twenty-four singles Slams: next in line is Steffi Graf at 22. (Roger Federer is way out of contention with his 15.)

Look at another. Court is the only person to win all 12 Slams at least twice. In fact, take out Wimbledon’s results (where she won only three singles and two women’s doubles), and she won the other 10 Slams at least four times.

And one more for good measure. Court is one of only three players to achieve a career “boxed set”—all three titles at all four Slams.

Not enough? Well, Court is one of only three women to win a calendar Slam (in 1970), and on four further occasions, she won three singles Slams in the same year.

Make no mistake, this woman dominates the record books now just as much as she dominated the opposition during her 17-year career.

While you absorb those statistics, consider this, too.

Between 1970 and 1975, the Australian Open did not hold a mixed doubles competition, and in 1965 and 1969, the mixed finals were abandoned due to bad weather (and Court was lined up to play in both). So it’s entirely possible that this remarkable woman could have won another half dozen Slams. Imagine it: 67 titles.

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Queens of The Court: Billie Jean King – The Heart and Stomach of a King 5

Posted on November 22, 2009 by Marianne Bevis

Women's Professional Tenni is what it is today thanks to Billie Jean King

Women's Professional Tennis is what it is today thanks to Billie Jean King

A tribute to a personal heroine who celebrates her 66th birthday on 22nd November.


A first impression

What was it about one particular woman, wielding her wooden racket in the black and white world of 1960s television, that imprinted itself in this fan’s memory? She came from another country, and she played a game I had barely learned to understand, let alone master.

To me, she looked middle-aged even though still in her early 20s. She was ordinary in appearance but unusual in demeanor.

I knew nothing of her background nor of her achievements in tennis—other than she had just beaten the homely, and British, Ann Jones. But once I heard her name, I never forgot it.

Billie Jean King.

Her story has been simmering in the bloodstream ever since, because her name takes me back to my very first monochrome memories of tennis and of Wimbledon—for it was only Wimbledon that made its way into British living rooms back then.

These were impressionable years for a girl heading towards adolescence. It was the uncomfortable realisation that my mother seemed quite embarrassingly enamoured of the Santanas and Newcombes. It was also the uncomfortable realisation that King was being undermined by that mother’s slights about her appearance, her manner, and her attitudes.

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Evonne Goolagong 0

Posted on September 14, 2009 by Dean Hybl

Evonne Goolagong

Evonne Goolagong

In recognition of the improbable U.S. Open run by Kim Clijsters, we honor as this week’s Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Week a former women’s tennis great who accomplished a similar feat 29 years ago.

In 1980, Evonne Goolagong upset Tracy Austin and Chris Evert to claim the Wimbledon title and become the first woman in 66 years to claim the Wimbledon title after having a baby.

Read the rest of this entry →

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