Serena Williams and Muhammad Ali will go down as two of the very best athletes to ever walk the planet earth. The International Athletic Association (IAA) announced Thursday (Feb. 16), that the duo will be this year’s recipients of the Jesse Owens Awards. The distinguished award committee selects the world’s best athletes who exude the qualities that Owens stood for, integrity, perseverance and service. Williams and Ali exemplified those characteristics throughout different eras of sport.
“Jesse Owens used the global stage of the Olympics and his status as a world-class athlete to make a considerable difference in the world,” said Herbert P. Douglas, Jr., Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the International Athletic Association Board of Directors, and oldest living African American Olympian. “We are thrilled to be recognizing Serena Williams who is one of the greatest athletes of our time and the quintessence of uncompromising sportsmanship.”
Serena was awarded the Jesse Owens Athlete Trophy as she comes off her 23rd grand slam win at the Australian Open, giving her the most in the Open era. Williams joins past winners voted on by an expert group of journalists such as Carl Lewis, Greg Louganis, Sebastian Coe, Haile Gebrselassie, Edwin Moses, Vitali Scherbo, and others.
Ali’s legacy will never be forgotten. The three-time heavyweight champion changed the sport in and out of the ring, inspiring others until his unfortunate passing in June 2016. The Louisville Lip’s family will accept the Global Peace Award on his behalf.
R.I.P. Muhammad Ali, and congrats to Serena!