People to Know 2016: Billie Jean King
Few athletes transcend sports. Billie Jean King is one of them.
Billie Jean is one of my heroes, and her influence on me—and so many others—has been profound. As athletes, we are focused on preparing for and delivering in the moment. But Billie Jean has shown us that we also have an opportunity to use our sport as a platform to help others.
Billie Jean established the WTT (World Team Tennis) Donnelly Awards in 1998. The awards give $25,000 in scholarships each year to young tennis players living with diabetes. They’re named after Billie Jean’s former assistants, who are sisters with type 1 diabetes.
Billie Jean and I also are connected by diabetes. We were both diagnosed around the same time, she with type 2 and me with type 1. It’s a special bond we share. She told me once that “health is wealth,” and I have never forgotten that. That’s one of the reasons we both pay close attention to how we manage our diabetes.
Billie Jean readily admits that sometimes it is a struggle for her. But she has recommitted herself to getting to the gym, to watching what she eats, and to keeping her A1C under control.
One of Billie Jean’s favorite sayings is, “You have to see it to be it.” If people see Billie Jean King living with diabetes and continuing to break down barriers, if they see me driving a race car at 230 miles per hour, they might gain the confidence to achieve their dreams.
I’ll leave you with a few words of wisdom from Billie Jean King: Champions adjust. Pressure is a privilege. Everyone is an influencer.
Dates to Know
1943: Born in Long Beach, Calif.
1967: Top-ranked women’s tennis player
1971: First female athlete to win $100,000 in a single season
1973: Founded the Women’s Tennis Association
1984: First woman commissioner in the history of professional sports
2009: Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Charlie Kimball is a professional race car driver with type 1 diabetes. He pilots the No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet for Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series.