Tag Archives: Wimbledon

A Different Sort of Tennis Star

You’d think since being rated the top Junior player in the United States, tennis phenom Taylor Townsend would be best known for her prowess on the court.  However, aside from Townsend’s legendary on-court tennis battles, are plenty of battles of a different sort.  Two years ago, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) asked Taylor to sit out of the 2012 Open Junior Tournament due to concerns about her “conditioning”.   And by conditioning, they meant body shape.  And by body shape they meant how Townsend looked in a dress.  According to Tom Perotta of the Wall St. Journal:

Her coaches declined to pay her travel expenses to attend the Open and told her this summer that they wouldn’t finance any tournament appearances until she makes sufficient progress in one area: slimming down and getting into better shape.

“Our concern is her long-term health, number one, and her long-term development as a player,” said Patrick McEnroe, the general manager of the USTA’s player development program. “We have one goal in mind: For her to be playing in [Arthur Ashe Stadium] in the main draw and competing for major titles when it’s time. That’s how we make every decision, based on that.”

But it doesn’t just stop at funding. According to Perrotta, the USTA actually requested that Townsend skip the U.S. Open, denying both her petitions for wild cards into either the U.S. Open main draw or the qualifying tournament. In the end, Townsend’s family decided to pay out of their own pockets for Taylor to compete in the U.S. Open Junior Tournament.  She was ultimately defeated in the quarterfinals by Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.

It’s clear that Taylor knows on which side her baguette is buttered.  In 2012 Townsend said:  “I’ve gotten a lot of great opportunities, great fitness, great coaching,” she said. “I’m doing everything that they ask me to do and being professional about everything.”

Nevertheless, Townsend has to be feeling more than a little gratified over Tuesday’s French Open results.  The match had some moments that seemed straight out of a movie script.  In the first set of her first match, Taylor got behind 1-5.  She then won12 of the following 13 games to win over her U.S. opponent Vania King 7-5, 6-1. Today (Wednesday, May 28) Townsend (ranked 205th) is scheduled to battle top-ranked Frenchwoman Alize Cornet (ranked 21st) at the 10,000-seat Suzanne Lenglen Court. So surely at this point we’re focusing on her playing prowess, right?  Right?

Well, today’s New York Times article on Townsend is titled “Questioned About Body, Townsend Rises and Inspires”.  Now the article goes on to say that Taylor is playing amazing tennis, and that Wednesday’s matchup promises to be very exciting.  The article contains quotes from Taylor’s new coach (Zina Garrison) talking about how Townsend is “fine”, and how she doesn’t wish her young tennis protege to suffer over criticism or worry about her weight.  So I’ll offer some slight props to the Times for inserting some body positivity into the article.  But let’s not forget that the first three words of the headline are not “Powerful Tennis Star” or “Young Tennis Phenom”.  The first three words of this headline are “Questioned About Body”.

I guess it’s not surprising.  As I’ve reported before, even winning Wimbledon does not protect you from the need to be attractive to men.  The top title in tennis does not forgive you for being less than supermodel gorgeous.

I hope that Taylor kicks some serious butt on the court tomorrow.  I hope she plays really well and ultimately triumphs.  I have to admit that I don’t hold out a lot of hope however, that Taylor Townsend will ever win victory over a public that is most interested in how she looks in her little tennis skirt.

Le sigh.


Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

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See Fatty Run: Designer Sweat and Supermodel Athletes

It’s enough to make you crazy.  People of size are constantly asked to exercise, but are criticized for neglecting to look like supermodels while they are doing it.  Sometimes in the same article we are told not only that we need to get off the couch and exercise but also, please, for the love of all that is holy do it somewhere in private where there is positively no chance the “enlightened author” will have to look at us.  Is it any wonder some of us get fed up with exercise?

It seems that even for those in the highest and most prestigious positions in the land are especially vulnerable to attack while exercising.  I’m not talking about physical attack.  Those secret service dudes are serious business.  I’m talking about emotional attacks that play out in traditional and social media.  I was struck by this recent piece in the Telegraph entitled George Osborne horror pic: Why do Fat Politicians go Jogging in Public.  Seriously.  For realz.  A major paper published an opinion piece by one of the EDITOR of their blogs complaining that politicians who don’t sport a perfectly toned and tanned body need to exercise in a gym, far away from they prying eyes of the public.

And this is by no means a new development. Bill Clinton was ribbed endlessly for his public jogging pictures–and not just during his presidency.  When new Bill Clinton and Al Gore jogging photos surfaced in 2011, it made NATIONAL NEWS for crying out loud.

Obsession with the weight of the president complete with the obligatory Bill Clinton jogging shot.

Even incredibly talented and extremely accomplished professional and Olympic athletes are expected to look like supermodels at all times.  I mean when an African American gymnast wins one of the most highly coveted medals of the 2012 Olympics we still feel the need to spend news cycles talking about her hair being a little bit messy.  Because as we all know, Olympic athletes are all about teh sexy.  And as the inimitable Ragen Chastain points  out, even winning Wimbledon doesn’t prevent snarky newscasters from expressing their disappointment that the winning tennis star doesn’t meet their personal standards for personal attractiveness.

I blame Sports Illustrated.  Not only do they have a swimsuit edition, which requires the featured women to have exactly enough athletic prowess to pose nearly naked on a beach for a few hours.

Is it any wonder that so many of us feel so very intimidated by the notion of going out to exercise in public?  Is it any wonder that many of us who can’t afford designer workout wear, fake tans, liposuction and a secret service team feel like we can’t be seen on public streets working up a sweat.  And once we get up the courage to get out there and stumble along, yet find ourselves facing some stupid kid hollering insults or making animal noises out the window at us, will we do it again?  Will we lace up our sneakers, head out the door and face more abuse?

With all the outcry about lack of physical activity in this country, I think we need to spend less time idealizing “athletes” who have their own hair and makeup people and personal stylists and spend more time making fitness safe for the rest of us.  We need to make more places that are physically safe for us to walk the dogs, ride our bikes and even run our untanned, unretouched chubby legs down the street.  And we need to create a culture that makes exercise emotionally safe for people who don’t happen to look like supermodels.


The Fat Chick

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