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The student news site of Lake Forest Academy

The Spectator

The student news site of Lake Forest Academy

The Spectator

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Leaving legends, and the rise of a new generation

Photo by Courtesy of @usopen on Instagram
Coco Gauff recieves US Open trophy from retired legend Billy Jean King.

We all remember our childhood athletic idols—the players that we have grown up with through a screen. We watched their ups and downs, wins and losses, controversies and beauties. But, sports change. Our favorite athletes retire and new ones emerge, plastered across headlines like “The Next *insert athlete here*.” It can be a bittersweet feeling watching the “Greatest of All Time” pass their prime, however, that’s an inevitable part of sport. At the same time, the new flux of athletes that have taken on the weight of their country’s flag on their shoulders gives us a newfound excitement and hope for the future of the game. 

As players change, the game does too. Carlos Alcaraz is a 20 year old tennis player from Spain, and he is currently ranked the best male tennis player in the world. Alcaraz defeated Djokovic, Nadal, Sinner, Tiafoe, Ruud, all big names in tennis in his fight for that desirable “No. 1”. 

Dr. Sarah Taylor, Girls Varsity Tennis coach and former pro player, said, “Athletes have gotten stronger, fitter, faster.” She continued, “If you compare to the 60s and 70s, there is a conception of having some talented athletes that didn’t have to work so hard. In today’s game, you have to be talented, athletically gifted, and be the hardest worker out there.” Taylor reflected on some of her idols, such as Steffi Graffe, Andre Agassi. “Serena meant so much to the game. She elevated the entire feeling around a tournament. Seeing her retire, it took me a minute”.

However, there are so many upcoming athletes that have dominated the game at the start of their career. “Ben Shelton is so exciting to watch—he has so much power, he’s athletic.” Taylor continued, “Coco Gauff is another player who’s just phenomenal, and also at the start of her career.” After the recent retirements of the legends, these players have been able to take the carriage by its reins to keep the sport moving, especially during that “mourning period after the greats retire”.

Darrin Madeley, the LFA Athletic Director and former NHL player reflected, “Watching people we idolize hit an age where they struggle to walk, I realize that my body will continue to deteriorate too.” He continued about how it has put things in perspective as “the guys leaving now are the ones that were coming in when I was leaving”.

Alexis Venachanos, former assistant Athletic Director at LFA and current Northwestern University lacrosse coach said it best, “It’s important to tell the stories of the past.” The players we grew up with had big impacts on the game. We can’t go further unless we remember where we started. 

Ackim Mpofu, former pro soccer player and current Girls Soccer Coach reminisced on Cristiano Ronaldo’s playing, “Ronaldo, plays with so much joy, even if you don’t play the game you can see it, he made me fall in love with soccer.” Ronaldo has recently moved to a Saudi pro league team- Al-Nassr leaving a large gap in the premier league that he formerly played for. Ronaldo and Messi were two figureheads of soccer. They both have recently left European leagues. Messi is now playing in the US MLS league for the team Inter Miami. He left another huge gap in European soccer.

In soccer we see new names like Megan Papinoe FIFA’s best women’s player in 2016, Pablo Gavi a 19 year old Spanish soccer player, Jude Bellingham (20) and Lamine Yamal Spain’s youngest player (16). Younger Basketball players like Victor Wembanayama, Josh Giddey, Ja Morant and Nikola Jokić are, “changing the game of basketball into a less aggressive sport—it’s now a more shooting and skill based sport,” said Track and Field coach and avid basketball fan, Ted Golata.

It is bittersweet to watch our role models pass their prime in a sport that they have dedicated so much to. As a new generation of athletes sweep stadiums and take over crowds, we can’t help but enjoy watching as they take it to the next level.

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