Rising tennis prodigy Coco Gauff is still riding the wave of her maiden Grand Slam victory on her home turf. Gauff had a remarkable hardcourt swing, winning two WTA titles en route to the US Open victory. Young Coco is an outspoken girl, never shying away from the difficulties that life throws at her. She has her grandmother, Yvonne Lee Odom to thank for much of it.
Gauff lives fearlessly, a trait that comes through in her playing style as well. It was on display in spades, when she took on Aryna Sabalenka in the US Open final. Gauff was down one set, but she clawed her way back into the match and eventually defeated Aryna 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Tennis legend Billie Jean King was all praises for Coco, who has exceeded expectations at every turn. King revealed that the reason they fought for equality 50 years ago, was so players like Coco could flourish. It is an exceptionally high praise for the young prodigy, coming from King herself.
King added that Gauff gets her indomitable spirit from her grandmother, Yvonne. Coco’s grandmother was the first Black child to go to an all-white school in Delray, Florida.
Gauff has also spoken about drawing inspiration from her grandmother in the past. The teen has always lent her voice to fight for justice. However, she feels her battles are nothing compared to what her grandmother faced.
Gauff spoke of her grandmother facing racial discrimination at the all-white school. Given what Yvonne went through, speaking out comes easily to Gauff. “She always reminds me that I’m a person first instead of an athlete,” said Coco.
Who is Yvonne Lee Odom, the grandmother of Coco Gauff?
Coco and her grandmother share a lot of similarities. Both were 15 years old when their lives changed. For Coco, it was her Wimbledon debut, but for Yvonne, it was overcoming racial barriers.
Odom was selected to be the first Black child to be integrated into the all-white Seacrest High School. Being academically and athletically gifted, Yvonne was the ideal candidate. It was a daunting affair but Odom was not afraid, even though tensions ran high. “I wasn’t afraid. If they told me to integrate, I was going to integrate,” she said (via The Palm Beach Post).
Yvonne’s first day at the school was uneventful, even if the other students were a bit apprehensive. At her previous school, Odom had been selected to captain the basketball team. However, at Seacrest, she decided not to play or ride the bus for safety reasons, for a while at least.
Yvonne Lee Odom eventually graduated from Seacrest, alongside four other Black students. She earned a degree in elementary education, and taught math at Carver Middle School, before marrying Eddie Odom Jr.
Yvonne was a remarkable woman, and Coco Gauff stands on the shoulders of her grandmother’s struggles. Gauff’s maiden slam title is only the beginning for the young prodigy.