Monday, June 27, 2005

Arthur Ashe – An Obscure Champion

In the era of Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, the renowned champions of the liberation of blacks, there lived a real hero of blacks; a soft-spoken, unobtrusive person who would never talk about his ambitions in public or would glamorize his work. I am talking about Arthur Ashe, first black person to win Wimbledon in1973, by defeating the then Sachin Tendulkar of men’s tennis, Jimmy Connors. This made Arthur Ashe poster-boy of blacks. It shot him to stardom and raised him to a pedestal of glory, which he never cherished to be on.

A true champion of cause that he was, he used his success in tennis to wield support for his campaign against apartheid in South Africa. The words of Nelson Mandela; and I quote “ South Africa could never shrug off racial discrimination without the monumental work of Arthur Ashe” are suffice to note his work on this account. What intrigued people of South Africa who lived in shantytowns where Arthur strolled around, is the sense of freedom that prevailed around him. He was an epitome of liberation for these oppressed beings.

Arthur Ashe was never a great tennis player. You would never talk about Arthur in same breath as that about Jimmy, Rod laver and Mcnroe, but Arthur used his abilities in tennis profession for a much noble cause and particularly in not so favourable conditions.

Towards the fag end of his life he was contracted with AIDS which was not known much about or talked about at that time. He never revealed his predicament even to his wife fearing that this would seriously jeopardize life of his five-year-old daughter. But as luck would have it, the information some how found its way in public. This brought a new avenue of struggle for this veteran. He began his Aids awareness campaign that helped to pool in funds needed for work of such proportions.

He always remained a buttoned-up and soft-spoken person who never caused much turmoil, but instead went about creating ripples in society, which would culminate in turbulent conditions. He died in 1993 due to fatal disease that he had contracted.


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