An 18-year-old American tennis player, Taylor Townsend, beat the No. 1-ranked French player Alize Cornet on her own soil in the second round of the French Open this year. The Chicago teen didn’t just make a powerful statement by winning and advancing in the tournament, Townsend’s victory also sent a message to those who discriminate against female athletes on body image.
As a junior player, Townsend was a tennis phenom. She won the girls’ singles and doubles titles at the Australian Open, the doubles title at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and the singles title at the prestigious Easter Bowl in 2012. That year, Townsend also became the first American to hold the year-end No. 1 junior ranking since 1982.
However, there was a problem. At 170 pounds, Townsend didn’t match the stereotype of the tall, thin, female tennis player. And for those at the United States Tennis Association (USTA), her wins weren’t enough. The USTA denied her travel expenses to the U.S. Open two years ago until she got in better shape.
Apparently, Townsend’s USTA coaches wanted her to “slim down.” Although Townsend had long given up eating burgers and junk food, her body size wasn’t up to snuff in the eyes of the USTA. Earlier that year, they also made her withdraw from tournaments to work double time on her fitness.
That a young, world-class player was denied support due to her body size — and not her results — is infuriating. But Townsend did just fine at the U.S. Open that USTA didn’t want her to attend that year. She reached the quarters and won the junior doubles title. As her mother remarked after the tournament, “Serena can’t look like Sharapova.”
Read more about tennis star Townsend’s and her weight at BlackDoctor.Org.
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(Photo: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)