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Why is Serena Williams even at the 2016 Games?

RIO DE JANEIRO — The 2016 Summer Games' most iconic and globally well-known star arrived in Rio on Wednesday morning. She announced herself primed and ready for a run at more gold.

"It's always special to be in the Olympics," said Serena Williams, speaking at an introductory news conference for the 11-member U.S. Olympic tennis team, which features players from the men's and women's pro tours. "Tennis players, we dream of winning Grand Slams — then there's the Olympics. [It's] totally different; you're playing for your county. … When I held my first gold medal, it was a feeling that I never expected."

The world's No. 1 female tennis player arrived in Brazil and promptly went to the Olympic courts for a practice. Still, she claimed to be charged-up and free of any emotional hangover from a summer that has included a run to the French Open finals and Wimbledon singles and doubles crowns at age 34.

Like her sister, Venus, Serena Williams is one medal away from tying the all-time Olympics record. AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

"I don't reflect so much," she explained. "I move on, try to focus on the next big event. That was my main goal. Make sure I'm ready to play Rio."

A looming question, however, is why Serena Williams is even at the 2016 Games?

She could easily have added her name to the list of stars steering clear of Rio from a wide range of sports. It's not as if she has much left to prove. She has now pocketed 22 singles Grand Slams and 14 more in doubles. (Roger Federer, by comparison, has 17 singles Slams and none in doubles.)

And few athletes on earth can equal either Serena's bank account — a net worth of roughly $150 million, according to Forbes — or her name recognition and pop-star sizzle. So, why is she here? One answer could be that she's searching for a bit more history.

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As an Olympian, Serena, like her sister, Venus, has four golds: three in doubles and one in singles, which she won at the London Games in 2012. (The top-seeded male in Rio, Novak Djokovic, has just one medal: a bronze at Beijing in 2008.)

Currently, the Williams sisters trail Great Britain's Kitty McKane, who in the early 1900s won a record five medals. But among the game's greats, the deep, historical import of the Olympics is watered down. Tennis, after all, wasn't part of the competition from 1924 to 1988.

On Wednesday, Serena swatted away questions about Zika or any of the other worries shrouding the Games. Instead, she put it plainly: "I love what I do. I enjoy being out on the court, enjoy competing. Right now, I just don't see a time where I don't want to do it anymore. … This is just an opportunity of a lifetime."

Point won. Point made. Move along now. Classic Serena.


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