US OPEN Unveils Althea Gibson Statue Honoring One Of Tennis’ Greats (And She’s A Brown Gal!)By Maureen Martin | August 26, 2019 | Entertainment
As a sports enthusiast, I must say that my favorite NYC event is the annual US Open. It’s especially exciting to be on the grounds today on National Women’s Equality Day. Hearing USTA former president Katrina Adams and tennis icon Billie Jean King speak affectionately about US Open champion Althea Gibson, we learned that the statue is a passion project that has been on Ms. King’s heart since the 1970s. Clearly, without Althea, we may not have had Ms. King or the amazing Williams sisters. Tennis like soccer is a sport that has broken barriers for women and allowed us to be proud of our strength and muscles.
As a woman of color, it’s energizing to walk the grounds of Arthur Ashe Stadium knowing that tennis is dominated by women of color and at the US Open, 19 of the 39 women competing this year are women of color.
A large crowd gathered in Arthur Ashe Stadium for the unveiling of a statue honoring the pioneering champion Althea Gibson. Gibson “broke the color barrier in tennis with her debut at the U.S. National Championships at Forest Hills in 1950, was the also the first African-American to win a Grand Slam title, taking the crown at Roland Garros in 1956. The following year, she was likewise the first African-American to take the Wimbledon and U.S. titles; a twin-bill that she repeated the following year. Gibson, who passed away in 2003 at the age of 76, will now have a permanent place of honor on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.”
“She was beautiful and graceful and intimidating all at the same time on the court,” King added. “When she came to the net she was very intimidating. I’ve said to Venus [Williams], she was like a 21st century, Althea.”
Created by artist Eric Goulder, the sculpture also will activate an augmented reality experience. Developed by MRM/McCann, visitors will be able to activate exclusive content about Althea Gibson’s life and legacy by focusing the Augmented Reality (AR) Viewfinder found within the 2019 US Open app onto the sculpture. Narrated by Billie Jean King, the additional AR experience traces Althea’s humble roots, her early interest, and involvement in tennis, her career, and her legacy through video footage, photos, and graphics. Fans can also view the AR experience anywhere by using the APP to place a full-size 3D “hologram” of the sculpture into their surroundings and re-live the experience again or for the very first time. The component that brings Gibson’s life and career to life for fans on-site during the Open via the US Open mobile app.
Angela Buxton, Gibson’s former doubles partner, also shared some poignant memories of her long-time friend. “We won both the French and Wimbledon doubles together with my arm around her both times at the closing ceremonies … She slowly became the Jackie Robinson of tennis and I was soon referred to as the Pee Wee Reese, who without saying a word indicated ‘This is my friend.’”
Photo: Nicole Pereira /USTA