Girl Power Games

18 Aug

Paraphrasing a British newspaper, suffice it to say that the Olympic Games of London 2012 can be easily summarized as the Girl Power Games, especially when the Spice Girls re-united (the second time) for the Closing Ceremony.  It is true, though, that these Games were historic not just because London played host for the third time; it was the first time all participating countries sent a female representative to compete.  That may sound like a shock to many of you, but it was such a huge moment to see Saudi Arabia and Oman have women in their squads for the first time in Olympic history.   In my next post, I’ll discuss a bit more on the Saudi track athlete and how monumental it was to see her take the track of Olympic Stadium.  Of course, I do not have the facts and figures for every participating country, but I do have some knowledge on Team USA and Team GB, so I thought I’d share some interesting points with all of you.

For the first time in the history of Team USA there were more women athletes than men (268 to 261), and they did Team USA very proud.  Over the two weeks of competition, Team USA won 104 medals (46 of them gold), and the women of Team USA brought home 58 of them (29 of them gold).  So, the men of Team USA only brought home 17 gold medals, which is very surprising to many, including myself.  The 59 medals that Team USA women brought home would have put them in fourth place in the medal standings, and the 29 gold would have tied them for third with Team GB.  Pretty astonishing.

Other great TEAM USA highlights:

–          Our youngest Olympian, Katie Ledecky (15), is from the Washington, D.C. area, and won the gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle, beating Team GB hopeful, Becky Adlington.

–          Team USA women’s soccer team won its third straight gold medal, and four out of five since 1996, when soccer was introduced to the Games.

–           The American women’s basketball team won their FIFTH straight gold medal (seventh gold overall), which is unprecedented in women’s sport.  They dominated all of their opponents the entire two weeks, proving that America is still home to the best female players.

–          Keri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor finished their Olympic career in style by winning their third straight beach volleyball gold medal, something that has never occurred in the sport, and cemented their place in history as the best team on the sand.

–          A nod must go out to my favorite two female athletes: Serena and Venus Williams.  Serena and Venus teamed up for the third time in the Olympics’ doubles competition and won their third gold medal.  Since Venus won singles’ gold in Sydney 2000, it seemed only fitting that Serena would win her first singles’ gold on the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon, where she picked up her fifth Wimbledon title a few weeks prior to the Games.  These two sisters have always demonstrated the determination and desire to play for their country and they haven’t let America down.

Team GB women were equally impressive overall.  The women gave the host country their first gold medal in rowing and continued to produce wins in many of the sports.  Zara Phillips, daughter of Princess Royal and granddaughter of HM The Queen, helped Team GB equestrian win a silver medal in the evening competition.  She became the first British royal to win an Olympic medal.

Also: I watched Gemma Gibson win a silver medal in Judo (losing out to an American), and it was truly inspiring. I know nothing about the sport, but the sheer determination that Gibson showed was inspiring.  This is especially true when you learn that she lost her mother recently and was the main catalyst for Gemma turning to judo in the first place.  Pretty emotional stuff.

Team GB women won 36 percent of all medals and 10.7 percent of them were gold.  They were led, of course, by Jessica Ennis, who won gold in the women’s heptathlon and was crowned the greatest female athlete in the world.  She was the first of three gold medal winners for Team GB on “Super Saturday” (the others were Mo Farrah and Greg Rutherford).  I was at an outdoor venue watching her finish the 800m portion and the crowds were just screaming her name.  There was a burst of euphoria when she crossed the finish line and became a gold medalist.  Remarkable event. 

Team USA and Team GB have women to thank for their great standings on the final medal table, and I was glad I was able to watch some of these great women compete.  In my next post, I’ll be describing some of my favorite and emotional moments of the Games.

This post was written by our Olympics correspondent, Matt. 

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