Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Arthur Ashe: Inspirational on and off the Court

By Connor Durkin                              

I believe that for athletes to be truly great, historic and inspirational they need to not only be a hero on the court, but off the court, as well. Arthur Ashe is a perfect example of an amazing athlete whose off the court contributions made him into the American hero he is remembered as today. Arthur Ashe was the first black tennis player to win the U.S. Open and the first black American to be ranked No. 1 in the world. Ashe`s activist engagements against apartheid in South Africa and on HIV and AIDS virus is another reason why he was an inspirational hero in our history.

Arthur Ashe was born July 10, 1943 in Richmond, Virginia and did not have an easy childhood, losing his mother at the age of 6. He first picked up a tennis racket at the age of 7 and just ten years later, he won the junior national title and was awarded a tennis scholarship to the University of California.

Ashe`s groundbreaking year came in 1968 when he became the first black male to win a title and was also the first person ever to win both amateur and U.S. Open national championships in the same year. One of Arthur Ashe`s most historic wins was in 1975 when he defeated the heavy favorite Jimmy Connors to win the Australian Open. Ashe is one of the most if not the most historic and inspirational tennis player because of the barriers he broke as a tennis player.

Although Ashe is widely known for what he was able to accomplish on the court, what he did off the court made him into an inspirational hero. Ashe was plagued with health problems in the later years of his life and found out that he contracted the HIV virus from a transfusion of bad blood that was given to him during his second heart operation. Ashe became a huge activist for raising awareness on the disease, giving a speech to the United Nations on the need for AIDS awareness. He also founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the defeat of AIDS.

Ashe wanted it to be understood that he attributed his struggle to succeed as part of the African American struggle to succeed. When he was denied a visa to South Africa to compete in the South African Open, he used the opportunity to raise awareness of apartheid. He was even taken away in handcuffs for his involvement at a protest over the U.S. treatment of Haitian refuges. All these examples show how Ashe was an outstand citizen and was not scared to show his opinion.

It’s clear that Arthur Ashe made huge accomplishments both in the game of tennis and in his own personal life. From winning three grand slam titles to setting up multiple foundations, Ashe is definitely a very inspirational athlete to many. For an athlete to be truly historic, they have to do more than be an athlete but to also be an outstanding citizen, and Arthur Ashe was just that.

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