Tough as it is to sum up Serena Williams’ career in one word, “golden” would be a great place to start. The 23-time Grand Slam champion has topped an Olympic podium a record four times in five berths on Team USA, and this week marks a decade since she swept gold medals in singles and doubles at the 2012 London Olympics. “I would have been happy whether I would have got a silver or gold,” she said after a 6-0, 6-1 demolition of Maria Sharapova in the gold medal match. “It’s such a great achievement to get on that medal stand. So that was awesome. But obviously I wanted gold.” Williams was already in the midst of a career renaissance that summer, shaking off the brutal disappointment of a first-round exit from Roland Garros to win her first major in two years at Wimbledon. When the tour returned to the All England Club a month later for the London Summer Games, she was primed to capture that elusive gold medal in singles. “I was so focused here,” she explained. “I remember I was serving and I was thinking, ‘Serena, this is your best chance to win a gold medal. You played Wimbledon on grass. You played great on grass. Pull it together.’ I was thinking, ‘I got to do this.’” Do it, she did: Williams didn’t drop a set against an iconic row of opposition that included former No. 1s Jelena Jankovic and Caroline Wozniacki, former No. 2 and 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Vera Zvonareva, top seed and reigning No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, and Sharapova, against whom she won the first 11 games in the final. Sharapova eventually got on the board, setting the stage for one of Williams’ most memeable quotes: “She won that one game, I could see her pumping her fists. I was like, ‘Oh, boy, here she comes.’” The quote was later superimposed on a Good Morning America interview Williams did after her Olympic victory, making for a go-to GIF over the next decade.

But Williams wasn’t done impacting pop culture. When she closed out Sharapova on Centre Court, Serena stepped to her chair and broke into an impromptu dance many identified as the Crip Walk. “I don’t think I ever danced like that,” she said in press, later calling the name of the dance “inappropriate.” “I don’t even know where the dance came from. It’s just a dance we do in California, I’d say, West Coast.” While the move drew criticism for its oblique association with gang violence, West Coast rapper Snoop Dogg gave Serena a shoutout on Twitter: Like the “one game” GIF, Serena’s dance has received similar treatment and has typically resurfaced on social media in tandem with her many subsequent victories.

“One of the best things about culture is that it never stays one thing to people forever,” said Emmy Award-winning writer Cord Jefferson in a 2012 BET column. “Culture is malleable and, in the right hands, a piece of our cultural tapestry that was ugly to some can, with time, be turned into something lighthearted and good-natured for others. That’s what the C-Walk is nowadays: A once violent thing that’s become a mostly innocent source of joy for lots of people since.” Williams kept the good vibes going when she teamed up with sister Venus, who won her singles gold over Russian Elena Dementieva in 2000, to clinch their third Olympic gold in women’s doubles. “I’m so proud of her,” said Venus. “I know what it’s like to win a gold in singles, so for her to have that achievement, I mean, she’s fighting on the court and I’m fighting in the box, just giving all my energy to her, whatever I can give. “Now that we both have four gold medals, it’s great. In our house, there’s a party. Whenever we’re at home, times get down, we go look at our golds, we’re back up. It’s something of intense motivation for both of us.” A golden finish for tennis’ golden family.


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