Serena Williams Named Sports Illustrated’s 2015 Sportsperson of the Year

The first woman to receive the honor since 1983.

For the first time in sixteen years, a woman has graced the Sportsperson of the Year cover of Sports Illustrated. But then, in 1999, that cover was shared by a whole team of women—the World Cup–winning US women’s soccer team to be exact. Now, the cover features the one and only Serena Williams proudly surveying her kingdom from her gilded throne. It’s the first time since 1983 that a woman has been honored with the Sportsperson of the Year title on their own.

And there’s no reason that Williams should have shared the cover with anyone. Her strength and drive lead to an amazing year of world-class tennis, in which she won three out of the four Grand Slam events and only lost three matches the entire season. Sports Illustrated elaborated on their wise pick:

In the end, as you already know, we chose Serena Williams, and even amid such a rich collection of finalists, she was a decisive choice. Sports Illustrated honors her dominance in 2015, when she won 53 of her 56 matches, three of the four Grand Slam events and built the most yawning ranking points gap between her and her closest competitor in tennis history. We honor her, too, for a career of excellence, her stranglehold on the game’s No. 1 ranking and her 21 Grand Slam titles, a total that has her on the brink of Steffi Graf’s Open Era Slam record, which Williams will likely eclipse by mid-summer.

But we are honoring Serena Williams too for reasons that hang in the grayer, less comfortable ether, where issues such as race and femininity collide with the games. Race was used as a cudgel against Williams at Indian Wells in 2001, and she returned the blow with a 14-year self-exile from the tournament. She returned to Indian Wells in ’15, a conciliator seeking to raise the level of discourse about hard questions, the hardest ones, really.

Williams has been a force to be reckoned with within the world of tennis for nearly twenty years and after the year that she had, she was a no-brainer for SI’s top honor, but that hasn’t stopped a wave of Internet backlash from condemning the magazine for putting the athlete on the cover. Their choice for Sportsperson of the Year? American Pharoah—the first horse to win the Triple Crown in thirty-seven years.

Maybe American Pharoah (who is not a person and thus not qualified to win Sportsperson of the Year) will be honored on the cover of Horse & Hound magazine, but then again, Ch Tashtins Lookin For Trouble—the 2015 winner of Westminster Kennel Club’s Best in Show trophy—might have a lobby of her own…

Check out Williams in all her deserved glory below.

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(via Vox)

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