Draped in a U.S. flag at her post victory press conference in Barcelona, Aspen’s newest Olympic heroine savored her “greatest thrill to date.” As a junior tennis player in Puerto Rico, Gigi said, she never thought she’d be playing for any American team, “so it was an awesome honor to do so.”
The four-year Western Slope resident also was ecstatic over the 7-5, 2-6, 6-2 women’s doubles conquest she and Mary Jo Fernandez (no relation) engineered over their host nation opponents, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Conchita Martinez.
Playing before the King and Queen of Spain and trailing 1-0 in the third set of the championship match, the U.S. duo refocused their attack and won every game after Gigi held serve in the crucial fifth game for a 3-2 lead.
1992 was indeed a zenith year for doubles specialist who, combined with Natalia Zvereva, successfully defended at the French Open, captured her first All-England (Wimbledon) crown and reclaimed the U.S. Open title she had held in 1988 and 1990.
Puerto Rico’s first female professional athlete was a late bloomer. Not until she received a scholarship from Clemson University at age 18 did she appreciate her parents’ gift of lessons a decade earlier.
She was more than appreciative after the 1992 bonanza of three Grand Slam titles, an Olympic Championship, a trio of Virginia Slims tournament victories and berths on the U.S. Federation and Wightman Cup teams.
Colorado’s internationally acclaimed adopted daughter and Zvereva went on to a fourth consecutive Grand Slam doubles title at the Australian Open early in 1993. The last athlete to sweep four straight Grand Slam events and an Olympic gold medal was Steffi Graf in 1988.
Gigi retired from professional competition in 1997.