Hitting historic strides in tennis in the late 1940s, the pioneering Althea Gibson was memorialized in statue form outside of the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, New York, The Undefeated reports. The figure was revealed ahead of the U.S. Open (Aug. 26). The news website states the sculpture, which weighs 18 tons, was transported from Italy.
At the 1956 French Championships, Gibson became the first African-American tennis player to win a Grand Slam. The super-athlete continued to garner accolades throughout her trailblazing career and inspired future game-changers like Venus and Serena Williams. Gibson passed away at 76 in 2003.
In a past statement issued to The Undefeated, Katrina Adams, former president of the U.S. Tennis Association, said this honor was a long time coming. “This is something that I have wanted for a while, something that I have floated within my office, as to getting something named after Althea,” Adams said. “Recognizing for me as an African American woman and recognizing what Althea stood for and understanding that she truly broke the color barrier for tennis—a lot of people think it’s Arthur [Ashe], but it was Althea 11 years before him.”
Following the news, champion Venus Williams said this is a fitting tribute for Gibson’s iconic career. “I would love if people knew her more. It wasn’t easy to be African-American in the ‘50s. It was actually, I wouldn’t even say easy, it was impossible to do that, and she did it and was a champion,” she said. “I can’t even imagine what she went through. And because she went through that—she went through it so I didn’t have to. What she achieved, her story hasn’t been told, so that statue is the beginning of what we should be doing for Althea.”
The unveiling of the gorgeous, 18-ton granite Althea Gibson statue @usta @BillieJeanKing National Tennis Center that took years to get done! But it’s here and a credit to the ‘Jackie Robinson of Tennis’ who broke through the color barrier in tennis. @usopen @katadams68 @WFAN660 pic.twitter.com/FdesxpxDuO
— Ann Liguori (@AnnLiguori) August 26, 2019