Billie Jean King: Champion on and off the courtMost people would know Billie Jean King as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, winning 39 Grand Slam titles, including 12 singles, 16 women's doubles, and 11 mixed doubles titles during her long and illustrious career. She also managed to pull off the herculean task of finishing as world number one in the tennis world rankings six times throughout her ten year career.
King also held the proud honour of captaining the United States’ Federation Cup team three times and for all her successes on and off the tennis court, she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987.
She also is an advocate against sexism in sports and society and spoke out for the right of women to earn the same amount of money in tennis and other sports. She is perhaps best known for the "Battle of the Sexes" against Bobby Riggs in 1973 who declared that women would never play tennis as well as men and challenged King to a match. King’s victory was also a victory for the women's rights movements and showed that female athletes were just as capable, or even better than men.
Billie Jean King’s achievements didn’t end when she hung up her tennis racket. In 2007, long after her professional tennis career ended, she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. As her family members have a history of diabetes, King wasn’t shocked by it.
Instead, she became a champion in a different way. Since 2007, King has been a strong advocate for raising diabetes awareness and was the spokesman for a campaign called Face of Change, a travelling photo exhibit that recognises the achievements of those diagnosed with diabetes. King also established the Novo Nordisk Donnelly awards in 1998 to encourage children with diabetes to lead an active life and to compete in tennis.