"Al" answered some online questions in an ABC interview. I love how she says she would beat all of today's women!
What gave you the will to do all you accomplished, and did you expect to do so much in just one year? I think that you are great and have a lot of heart.
Blair Clarke, St. John's, Newfoundland
Ms. Gibson: I worked hard and was encouraged by my coach and friends to keep winning and playing to the best of my abilities and remember what I had already accomplished. It gave me strength and a greater determination. Besides, I already knew that I was the best player out there.
What inspired you to play tennis and who taught you the game?
Pat Lee, Chicago
Ms. Gibson: Buddy Walker gave me my initial insight into playing tennis from playing paddle ball. I began to internalize that I was good.
Could you describe the social environment and pressure you felt during your Wimbledon and U.S. Open championship tournaments?
Austin Bell, Centreville, Va.
Ms. Gibson: Truthfully, I did not pay attention to anything around me too much, so I didn't really know pressure from outside of myself.
Which player today reminds you the most of yourself, in terms of playing style and competitiveness?
Sey Young, Bentonville, Alaska
Ms. Gibson: Venus Williams, from the standpoint of competitiveness. I was a serve and volley player, and charged the net. Venus is a baseline player, as are most of today's players. If you were to put me in today's grouping of female athletes, I would beat all the players on tour. Don't forget , I was the best player, No. 1 in the world. That means that I would be the best now as well. This is based on putting things in their proper places. I'd beat 'em all. Once I figured out the style of my opponent, look out.
For someone whose impact upon the tennis world has been so substantial, what factors have caused you to maintain a "reclusive life"?
Meade Thayer, Seattle
Ms. Gibson: I want the public to remember me as they knew me. Strong, athletic, smart and healthy. Right now, I don't remember everything I did, or when or how. I dominated in '56 and '57, and people are not kind if you forget things. I don't want people feeling sorry for me because of the way I look. "Oh, look at her she is so thin," and other things like that. No. Remember me strong and tough and quick, fleet of foot and tenacious.
How did you help change the attitude of Americans towards the participation of African-Americans in professional sports?
Jamyse Williams, New York
Ms. Gibson: I did not change anybody. I played good tennis. Being a good athlete has nothing to do with race. I played hard, didn't fight the calls, I just tried my best to beat the opponent. If I got a bad call I couldn't let that bother me. I had to keep on playing. Remember, this was in the '50s. I didn't expect much. I was my own worst enemy if I didn't pay attention to the game and got lost in the distractions.
Do you believe that many young African-American women are discouraged from pursuing professional sports careers because society only accepts these athletes in only a handful of sports?
Sanford Brown Jr., Queens, N.Y.
Ms. Gibson: No. Sponsorship is the problem not always attitude. Today's youth are afforded more. Some of what the Althea Gibson Foundation will do when the level of finances are able to carry the weight, will be sponsoring talented athletes.
Of everything you've accomplished, what stands out the most?
Curtis McAfee Jr., Brandon, Mich.
Ms. Gibson: I have traveled the world, represented the United States, worked for the State of New Jersey, and much more. But the greatest thing that I can do now is help the children along. I was discovered playing on the streets of Harlem, educated and helped by affluent members of my community, and now I have the opportunity to sponsor children. This is probably the best thing that I will ever do. I have co-founded the Althea Gibson Foundation so that inner city youths, just like me, can have a chance to avoid delinquency and get an education. This is what my last deeds will be.
Can you talk about your relationship with writer Alice Marble, and how she helped get your career started?
Miranda Chattam, Atlanta
Ms. Gibson: Alice Marble was a great, kind and gracious lady, and the one person that stood up for me in the tennis world, really the world at large. She was the voice that caused the doors of racial divide to be parted. Once the doors were opened, it was up to me so I beat down everything else with my tennis racquet.
Do you think you've left a greater legacy on the sport of tennis, or on society?
Kiara Decastro, Beale, Calif.
Ms. Gibson: My legacy is that I played hard and fair. I got my education. I finished high school at 21 with honors and completed Florida A&M as a B+ student. My legacy is that I was a good citizen who gave back to children so that they could have a chance, too.