When Serena Williams received Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year on Tuesday night, capping a dominant year of tennis in which she won three of the four majors, she placed heavy emphasis on being awarded sports-person of the year, expressing the hope her win would inspire other women. “For all the ladies out there, yes, we can do it,” she said, of being the first woman to win the award in 32 years. “My hope by winning this award,” said Williams, “[is that I] can inspire many, many, many more women… to stand right here on this podium.” In a moving speech at the award ceremony in New York City, Williams talked about the necessity of hard work, determination, and self-belief for success in any field. “I’ve had people look down on me, put me down because I didn’t look like them — I look stronger,” said Williams. “I’ve had people look past me because [of] the color of my skin. I’ve had people overlook me because I was a woman, I’ve had critics say I [would] never win another Grand Slam… and here I stand today with 21 Grand Slam titles, and I’m still going.” Williams, the only player in history to win all four majors after having turned 30, ended her speech with a brief but heartfelt rendition of Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise.”
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