Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A Diminutive Hero

I wasn't aware of the King family when they immigrated to this country in the early 1980's from Taiwan. I would guess they had plenty of hopes, but maybe few guarantees. It's a well-worn path that has worked for millions before, but you never know.
Things actually have worked out pretty well for the Kings, who settled in California. The three older children got educations, and somewhere in the gene pool they discovered the ability to play tennis at a high level. The youngest child, Vania, turned pro at the age of seventeen and has since won over a million dollars in prize money, though she's not yet 25. It should be noted, of course, that tennis professionals incur high expenses for things like traveling all over the world, but it still works well for just a tiny number of gifted people.
This past weekend marks the high point in Vania's career thus far. She teamed up with Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan (say that ten times) to win the Wimbledon Women's Doubles competition. Lest one get the impression that doubles is for less-gifted, non-singles players, the American Williams sisters were entered in the doubles and lost to the pair that King/Shvedova beat in the finals.
Here's another surprising fact: Vania's only 5'5", and 130 lb. This goes in the face of the trend that shows women tennis pros getting taller while retaining their speed and quickness. I'd guess being normal-size allows Vania to buy her own groceries without anyone even noticing that they're rubbing elbows with a Wimbledon champion.
So Vania King's life isn't much like that of the late Manute Bol, recently referred to in this space as the tallest man to ever play in the NBA. I do have a point here, though not an original one. Our society benefits in a thousand ways from immigrants and their descendants. We sent an army battalion made up of Japanese Americans to help liberate Italy. We sent soldiers who could speak the local language to assure Haitians of our good intentions. We take in an entire group of German rocket scientists, who simply continue what they've been working on. We get the boldest, most ambitious, most talented people from over a hundred other places to come here for a chance to be their best. And all we have to do is make sure this takes place in an orderly fashion, allow for some cultural differences from these new citizens, perfectly legal, but a little different from what we're used to, and make sure, as much as we can, that the best opportunities continue to be HERE, and not somewhere else. That shouldn't be hard, whether we want our heroes large, or, in the case of Vania King, diminutive.


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