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Athletes that Changed the Face of Sports

When we think of legendary athletes, there’s always a few that come to our mind in an instant. In this article, we are going to be examining some of these sports tycoons and seeing what their impact was on the world.
Andi Heininger
Inside Cavelero Mid High an assortment of trophies, pictures, and awards can be seen most of which were won by inspired young athletes(Courtesy of Andi Heininger).

The first athlete is known for leading Brazil to the World Cup championships three times and having the nickname “The King”. He’s what the masses call the most famous and legendary soccer player of all time: Edson Arantes do Nascimento, or better known as “Pele.””. He undoubtedly changed the game of soccer for the better and also made the sport popular in the United States, one of the most averse countries when it comes to soccer. His worldwide fame transformed the impact of soccer and how it was viewed; basically he transformed the sport into a form of art. Pele’s goals showed the aerobic talent and precision of soccer players to this day. It has inspired people to join this show of athletic skill everywhere. His story surprisingly started by being rejected from all the major clubs in São Paulo, but when he joined Santos Football Club the team went on to win nine São Paulo league championships. He then went on to join other clubs and won many more victories earning him recognition by Brazil and going on to play in the 1958 World Cup. He was then even named a National Treasure by the Brazilian government in order to ensure that Pele would remain in Brazil and not get tempted by major European club offers. Even after Pele’s astonishing career, he went on to make museums, documentaries, movies, and even musical pieces to continue and inspire new generations. Pele has also won numerous awards like the International Peace Award, Athlete of the Century, and has won the Fifa World Cup three times before. He was one of the most successful and famous soccer players that continues to motivate and inspire athletes/players today. Pele is the reason for great growth in soccer culture and popularity around the world to this day.

The next athlete legend is one that paved the way for future African-American athletes, both women and men. Her name is Wilma Rudolph and she was nicknamed ‘The Fastest Woman In The World’ for good reason, having won three gold medals in one Olympics. Rudolph has also broken World Records and Olympic records multiple times, earning her this dignified title. Her story starts from a premature birth where she suffered from multiple diseases and found that she had polio. At the age of six she was then required to wear a brace due to the unuse of her left leg. After years of determination and medical treatment, Rudolph was finally able to not need a brace anymore at the age of nine. Not long after, Rudolph became a basketball star at her high school; the coach even went on to create a track and field team just so that he could transform Rudolph into a sprinter, in recognition of the talent he knew she had. The rest was history: Rudolph went on to become a track and field celebrity, winning three gold medals at the Olympics and promoting America around the world because of her incredible talent. Rudolph went on to host parades and banquets that were the first interracial events in her hometown, Clarksville, TN. She went on to create a non-profit, the Wilma Rudolph foundation, served as a goodwill ambassador to French West Africa, and got awarded into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame. Wilma Rudolph continues to inspire Olympic athletes and non-Olympic athletes alike, as one of the most inspiring African American women athletes to this day and continues to be a role model for everyone.

Finally, we have one of the most famous women’s tennis players that stood up for women’s rights and equality when it came to sports: Billie Jean King. Her legacy was one that invoked the movement of women’s sports recognition and respect throughout the world. She has a powerful voice that can be seen as one that speaks for gender equality. One of these instances is when she continuously lobbied for equal prize money when it came to major tennis tournaments. After this however, Bobby Riggins, former #1 tennis player claimed women’s tennis was not as important to men’s, and that he at the age of 55-years old could still win against 29-year old Billie Jean King to which she welcomed his challenge. King ended up winning the match, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, and earned a bounty of $100,000 as a reward. This sporting event has played a huge role in the recognition of women’s sports and has influenced equal pay for women with jobs and a greater participation in women’s sports. Some awards she has won because of this include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the record of 20 championships won at Wimbledon, 39 Grand Slam tennis titles, and membership in the International Tennis Hall of Fame. To this day, Billie Jean King continues to be an advocate for equality all around the world and she continues to be a powerful voice for everyone.

These three legendary athletes – Pele, Wilma Rudolph and Billie Jean King – have changed sports for the better around the world. Each of them have positively impacted the lives of millions of athletes and powerful people. They have spoken against inequality, unfair pay, and equal rights for everyone no matter their race, gender, or background. This is why to this day we continue to look up to them for inspiration and appreciation.

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About the Contributors
Juliana Manley
Juliana Manley, Journalist
Hi, my name is Juliana I love writing about new upcoming topics that are important to my generation and also writing about topics that could one day impact our future. Some things that I like to do in my free time are playing tennis, baking, reading new books, and hanging out with friends. My favorite season is fall and my favorite holiday is Halloween because of how rainy and cozy it can be. I look forward to writing interesting pieces and reading other's articles. Thanks for reading!
Andi Heininger
Andi Heininger, Journalist
I'm in 9th grade and I'm super excited to be taking Journalism this year! I love to write, especially about topics I'm passionate about. Some of my other hobbies include soccer, reading, and debating.  Thanks for taking the time to read about me!

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