ARANTXA SÁNCHEZ VICARIO IS HONOURED WITH THE "LAUREL DE ORO" AT SOLEMN AWARDS CEREMONY
UNIVERSITY OF ALICANTE
23 NOVEMBER 1994
PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ALICANTE, YOUR EXCELLENCIES, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
As the Director of the Sports Service and as a professor, it is an honour for me to speak in the name of this university initiative to honour such a distinguished athlete. I feel really proud of the splendour and magnificence of this event, which will become a unique milestone in academic life for its importance and significance. Today is a very important day, since we are celebrating the career of an outstanding sportswoman who also embodies some of the highest human values that we all look up to.
You could say that our University's "Laurel de Oro" for sports is as high a recognition as as a degree honoris causa in science. This award is a symbol of the University's acknowledgement of a person's professional achievements and shows how much the institution relates to his/her values or aspires to achieve them for their high humanistic significance. At the end of the day, these awards are all about recognising the work and perseverance that have made the awardee shine in such a difficult and demanding profession as professional sport and at the same time become a role model.
Ms Arantxa Sánchez Vicario is a true example of all these virtues. For that reason, and for the extraordinary physical condition she is in and her outstanding success, it was certainly very easy to choose this prominent athlete as the recipient of our University award.
The minute the names of several outstanding athletes were proposed to the members of the UA Sports Commission's Permanent Committee, Arantxa's stood out. There were other candidates who also deserved this award, people with an outstanding career and exceptional achievements, but the long list of accomplishments reached by Arantxa this year left no room for doubt. The proposal was immediately sent to the Office of the University President, where it was received with great satisfaction. All the university units had accepted the proposal gladly, and so the "Laurel de Oro" would officially go to Arantxa Sánchez Vicario. As the awardee herself could see today as she walked around campus, the decision was warmly welcome by the whole university community. Testimony to this are the effusive displays of affection that Ms Sánchez Vicario received on her bumpy way to this room; please know that it was all because of the affection and admiration that the citizens of Alicante feel for you.
Arantxa is also exceptional in the sense that her example has motivated new generations of girls to get into sports in general and tennis in particular, as proven by the fact that her posters rival rockstars and actors on many young girls' bedroom walls. It is therefore a great honour for us to name our tennis complex after Arantxa Sánchez Vicario.
Arantxa has filled a huge gap in the Spanish tennis landscape. This is an old game; the first rules were established by captain Wingrield in 1877 for the first Wimbledon championship. In our country, tennis was in its early years a high society game that only a few could play, since you had to be a member of one of the few clubs that had clay courts at the time.
Those were the times of the first and only great achievements of Spanish female tennis until Arantxa came shining in. The days of the magnificent and almost mythical LIlí Álvarez, Duchess of la Valdene, who even played three consecutive finals of Wimbledon championship in 1926, 1927 and 1928, although she did not win any of them.
After her, Spanish tennis players were practically out of the international scene until the arrival of Manuel Santana, also known as "Supermanuel", in the early 60s and his victories in the most important international tournaments. A clear correspondence can be drawn between the significance of Manolo Santana's career for Spanish male tennis and the figure of Arantxa in our days:
"Santana meant the end of class discrimination in tennis and in the developing Spain because he brought new tennis beginners from all social groups to courts across the country. Arantxa made tennis popular far beyond the strict limits of the few prestigious national tennis clubs and brought many girls to tennis schools, eager to be like her."
Please allow me to go down memory lane again to accurately praise the importance of Arantxa's figure: after the remarkable yet occasional accomplishments of Andrés Gimeno in Roland Garrós in 1972, and Manuel Orantes in the US Open in 1975, our tennis landscape dried up again until the Sánchez-Vicario family made their grand entrance. Arantxa's brother, Emilio, was the first to bring back glory in competitions and international acknowledgements, thus giving tennis its lost popularity back.
However, it was Arantxa's shining star that made her go from last of an internationally-known family saga (right after Marisa, Emilio and Javier) to top player in her family, her country and the world. Somehow, her stunning trajectory overshadowed her siblings' outstanding achievements, and more specifically Emilio's, even if he came to be the best male tennis player in the country.
Arantxa is known for her early love for tennis. At the age of eight she was already knocking up with her first coach. Then one day, Andrés Gimeno saw her play against girls who were double her age and height, and decided to take her to Club Vilana to give her private lessons.
From then on, Arantxa started to shine in several children tournaments in Spain, where everyone was astonished by her strong strike and her ability to get to the toughest balls.
In 1984, when she was only 12, she won the Children's Championship of Spain, and in September 1985 she decided to fully devote to tennis. It was then that she won the Children's Championship of Spain again and became the youngest absolute Champion of Spain at the young age of 13.
With sacrifice, perseverance and discipline as her cornerstone, Arantxa entered the international circuit in May 1986, at the age of 14. However, it was not until 1987 that she blossomed: she was the fourth finalist in Roland Garros and in Rome, reached the third round in Charleston, Hamburg and Amelia Island, and entered the world top 50 list.
In 1988, Arantxa was a member of the Spanish olympic team in the Seoul Games. In 1989 she ranked 19 in the worldwide classification and was a rising star: on 11 June, she gave our country one of its greatests days of sports glory when she won the final of Roland Garros against the almighty Steffi Graff after a rough and brilliant two-hour match. She then became the tournament's youngest winner and climbed up to number 5 in the WTA ranking.
That match made Arantxa rise to the select and reduced tennis Olympus on her own merits; ever since then, all her achievements simply added on to the legend and the myth.
She has been the Absolute Champion of Spain six times, semi finalist in Grand Slam tournaments several times, and has also achieved resounding victories in international competitions. In 1992, she was part of the Spanish olympic team again and won the bronze medal in singles and the silver medal in doubles in the Barcelona Games.
Finally, in 1994, she established herself as the brightest star in the tennis firmament by winning Roland Garros and the US Open among other tournaments. She was recently acclaimed as the number one female tennis player in terms of championships won, and she will undoubtedly reach world number 1 in the WTA ranking.
Her exceptional record as an athlete has shaped Arantxa's personality and made her strong and courageous in the tennis court, and at the same time a nice, kind person outside it. There is no doubt that nowadays she is the top athlete when it comes to human values, which eventually makes her the best player.
Her brilliant, entertaining game has given us delightful moments and confrontations that were rich in technique and intelligence, topped with Arantxa's proverbial physical resistance and her laudable and outstanding ability to sacrifice.
Today, we praise and make these virtues our own by awarding Arantxa Sánchez Vicario this prize. For us, Arantxa herself is the true prize, and we feel extremely proud of having her as the recipient of this first "Laurel de oro", which is the next step in this young and dynamic University's road towards finding its rightful place within the world of education, science and culture.
Thank you very much, Arantxa.
I feel deeply honoured to be the first athlete to receive this award. This is a very special prize for me because it does not only acknowledge my achievements in sports, but also my journey through life. This is not something you see every day in the tough world of high performance sports, where usually other aspects more related with competitiveness are highlighted.
This is why the "Laurel de Oro" is especially dear to me, even if I have already received several awards in the last few years: this one is a celebration of my whole personality and an acknowledgement of far more than just my achievements as an athlete, as it usually happens.
I wish to express my gratitude to the University of Alicante for seeing me as a role model for athletes and, more especially, as an example of women's integration in sports practice.
This award and the tokens of affection I received today have made me feel like a true university student, a longstanding dream for high performance athletes who live amidst a routine of intense training and tight competition schedules. I want to thank the jury and the University Senate for choosing me to be the first recipient of the award, and all the people in the audience for the warm welcome you gave me.
Many thanks to the academic authorities, and many thanks also to the University of Alicante.
The new "Laurel de Oro" award to acknowledge the work of high performance Spanish athletes is born from the enthusiastic and dynamic spirit of university groups wishing to celebrate outstanding athletes who have achieved levels of national and international excellence with their effort and discipline. This is our modest tribute to those who succeed in sports competitions on the basis of values such as honesty, fair play, respect for the adversary, and will to excel.
I believe many of the values that can be seen in sports philosophy are also present in our university students, who witness investments in cultural dissemination grow year after year. We understand culture as a multidisciplinary area where health, body care and all types of sports play a very important role. Acknowledging and celebrating exceptional athletes is one of the ways we express our commitment with sports promotion.
That is the reason why we established the "Laurel de Oro" prize: as a way to reward constant effort and exceptional will to improve, reflected in brilliant mastery of the technique and wisdom.
Nobody is better suited to receive this award than Arantxa, for her career is a reflection of many of the values promoted by this University.
Arantxa is an exceptional athlete who possesses all the exceptional qualities already mentioned. As a player, she is characterised by her constant will to improve, the effort she makes every day to reach new goals, and, all in all, her meteoric career from amateur player a few years ago to international tennis star now, even if she is still exceptionally young.
However, her curriculum as a high performance athlete is just as impressive as her personal influence on Spanish sport in general and, more specifically, the incredible impulse she has given to women's incorporation to professional sports.
Arantxa's name equals sacrifice, tenacity, perseverance and technique mastery combined with kindness and friendliness, which when combined result in an extremely charismatic and magnetic person with a very positive impact on the Spanish society in general and young women in particular.
This award celebrates an outstanding career marked by all the virtues that were already mentioned and that the University Senate recognizes as its own.
Congratulations and thank you for accepting this award. We can only hope that our teaching and research projects will be a reflection of the success you have reached with tenacity, perseverance and enthusiasm.
The University of Alicante is committed to honour athletes' effort and constant work towards women's incorporation to sports. On this occassion, the University wishes to acknowledge the work of the best female tennis players of Alicante.
In order of preference as expressed by the tennis club of the Alicante Province, award recipients are:
|1. CLUB DE TENIS ALACANT||ANA BELÉN AGUILAR|
|2. CENTRO DEPORTIVO LA MARINA||MARISA RICHELLE DEJON|
|3. CLUB ATLÉTICO MONTEMAR||PAULA BARIA DOCTOR|
|4. CLUB DE TENIS ELCHE||VANESA CERDÁN SORIANO|
|5. CLUB DE TENIS LA VILA||ÁNGELA MORA ÁVILA|
|6. CLUB DE TENIS VILLENA||GLORIA PASCUAL ABELLÁN|
|7. CENTRO DEPORTIVO CUCUCH||Mª JOSÉ MILLARES|
|8. CLUB DE TENIS SAN JUAN||CAROLINA JIMÉNEZ ROY|
|9. CLUB DE CAMPO ALICANTE||ANA Mª DOMENECH SEMPERE|
|10. CLUB DEPORTIVO VISTAHERMOSA||DIANA PETRAT MATA|
|11. CLUB DE CAMPO ELDA||Mª ÁNGELES REQUENA MARTÍNEZ|
|12. CLUB DE TENIS SANTA POLA||PAULA FERNÁNDEZ VEGA|
|13. CLUB DE TENIS BELIANA||LLANOS SORIANO ORTEGA|
|14. CENTRO EXCURSIONISTA ELDENSE||ANA MORENO SOLO|
|15. CLUB DE CAMPO ELCHE||SARA MIRÓN VIZCAINO|
|16. CLUB DE TENIS ONIL||Mª MAR FUSTER FERRY|
|17. C.T. AKRA LEUKA||LUISA CRESPO FERNÁNDEZ|
|18. CLUB DE TENIS ALICANTE||BEATRIZ DAVALES PUERTA|
|19. SOCIEDAD DE TIRO DE PICHÓN||MARINA FERNÁNDEZ GIL|
|20. CLUB DE TENIS SAX||MERCEDES LATORRE PLA|
|21. CLUB DE TENIS JAVEA||ANA CATALÁ CHOLISI|
|22. CLUB DE TENIS PEGO||EVA T. PIEVA ESCRIVÁ|
|23. CLUB DE TENIS TAMARIT||ANABEL JAÉN GONZÁLEZ|
|24. UNIVERSITY OF ALICANTE||MAR GARCIA LÁZARO|
|25. UNIVERSITY OF ALICANTE||ROSA M. HERNÁNDEZ CASCALES|
Carretera San Vicente del Raspeig s/n - 03690 San Vicente del Raspeig - Alicante - Tel. 96 590 3400 - Fax 96 590 3464