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Navratilova already a legend at first Olympics

Athens, Greece (Sports Network) - Funny that Martina Navratilova would mention the Donner Party.

"It was mostly women that survived," the 47-year-old Czech native said at a Thursday press conference, three days before the Olympic tennis program begins. "Women have been underestimated for a millennium. Especially in terms of endurance. Don't forget that women give birth."

Navratilova commented at length on the prospects of competing in her first Olympic Games after a career spent winning just about everything she could.

"It's all a new experience, and this will be my only one," she acknowledged. "It was definitely a carrot I couldn't resist."

But the most surprising thing about the 29-year pro isn't that she is making her debut at the Games as a living legend. And it's not that she's doing it as an American.

It's that she's doing it at the age of 47.

"The bar has been raised in Tennis for men and women alike," Navratilova said, surrounded by her much younger teammates, including 30-year-old doubles partner Lisa Raymond. "Endurance for withstanding the pressure of tennis is essential for both sexes. Thirty is not the death knell anymore. It's at least 40."

Navratilova, who has 341 combined WTA titles in singles and doubles, shied away from the Seoul Olympics in 1988 -- when tennis made its official return to the Games -- because she was tired. And she missed Barcelona in 1992 because of a World Team Tennis contract.

But she's here now. Looking for another title.


Venus Williams commented Thursday on her younger sister Serena's withdrawal from the Olympics because an injured left knee just moments before getting on the plane for Greece. But she was hesitant to go into too much detail.

"It's extremely disappointing for her, and for me it's really sad," the elder Williams said. "It's also tough for the team, because she's a good player. But I let her make her own decisions uninfluenced. As for the team, we all try to help each other. We don't think 'who is the greatest?' We're just glad to be representing our country."

Williams, who is playing singles and doubles here, also commented on being not only an American athlete, but also an American celebrity at a high profile event. She's not worried about concerns for her safety, however, or the safety of her fellow American athletes.

"I haven't been preoccupied by it," she said. "I'm only concerned with the Games; nothing else matters to me. This is the safest place on the planet and would be the most difficult target for a terrorist.

"Terrorists don't hit safe places. Why bother with tight security when you can cause more damage in less conspicuous targets."


Navratilova was impressed with Williams' now-famous skill of snatching up coveted Olympic pins. But men's tennis player Andy Roddick has some work to do.

"I only have two pins," Roddick said Thursday. "So I'll have to get moving on that."

By Gerard Gallagher, Contributing Olympic Editor

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