The 2012 Summer Olympic Games have come to a close, and what an exciting two weeks it was as Team USA handily won the overall medal count, as well as capturing the most gold medals.
But how about those USA women who brought home 29 gold medals? Only two other countries, including male and female competitors, claimed as many—China with 38, and Great Britain with 29.
US women won more gold medals than US men, who captured 17, and more overall medals, 58 to 45.
That’s a greater overall medal count than any other country besides China, Russia and Great Britain, again, including those won by both male and female participants.
Appropriately enough, these successes come during the summer that marks 40 years since the passage of Title IX, a law that banned sex discrimination in schools, thus requiring equal funding for girl’s sports programs.
I remember a lot of talk about Title IX in the news when I was a young girl, although I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.
What a difference 40 years makes. Today’s young girls have the opportunity to play just about any sport they want to from toddlerhood. Many won’t ever be aware that a few short decades ago the choices were: cheerleading for girls, basketball and football for boys. At least, that’s how it was at my elementary school.
American women have certainly taken advantage of new opportunities.
Our women dominated in basketball, winning gold for the fifth straight Olympics.
Serena Williams crushed her opponent to win gold, dominating another world-class tennis champion so completely that it was almost painful to watch.
My favorite sport of the Olympics is probably beach volleyball. Our family likes to play volleyball, and our girls grew up watching Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, who just won gold in their third Olympics. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone work together any better as a team.
Who will ever forget the grace and poise of Gabby Douglas, the first black gymnast to win gold as best all-around gymnast? She’s sixteen years old.
We kind of expect American women to do well in volleyball, basketball and gymnastics, but they captured gold in water polo, judo, boxing, skeet-shooting and soccer as well.
In a matter of weeks, some of these young athletes became household names. Briefly, American households were bombarded with images of strong healthy-looking women accomplishing positive things.
This was a good year for women in the Olympics overall. For the first time ever, there was no sport off- limits to women, and yep, we won gold in boxing.
Even Saudi Arabia sent two women to the games. Maybe they will be inspired by the success of our women and enact some Title IX of their own.
Every Games have those moments that bring tears to our eyes and put us in awe of the heart of champions, who obviously aren’t all female.
Oscar Pistorius, on the South African team, ran in track events with prosthetic legs. Both his legs were amputated between his knees and ankles when he was eleven months old. I think the whole world was rooting for the man also known as the “Blade Runner” or “the fastest man on no legs.”
Then there was the marathon runner from Australia who was born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia, a birth defect that my family has become all too familiar with in the past year.
These Olympic Games were truly special, I think, and served as proof that champions are champions regardless of gender, race or where they are from.