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Women rule the London Games

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For as much as 2012 was a year to celebrate London and English culture, it was just as much a year to celebrate women at the Games.

For the first time in history the U.S. women outnumbered the men. Women also out-medaled men and provided some of the greatest moments of the Games, but to leave it at simple statistics and trivia would be hollow. Women dominated in ways you can’t place on a pie chart.

This was the first time we were able to see women box in competition after years of resistance. Claressa Shields, a 17-year-old from Flint, Mich. became our first gold medalist of the event. Queen Underwood and Marlen Esparza, who won bronze, boxed their way into history as well.

While the U.S. men faltered in water polo, volleyball, on the track, and on their bikes, the women succeeded almost universally, winning 59 medals, including 29 golds.

This was also a Games for Allyson Felix, who finally earned her coveted gold in the 200 meters. This one was for Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, who finished their historic three-peat, and for the women’s basketball and soccer teams who continue to dominate and provide incredible role models for coming Olympians.

And these Games were for 17-year-old swimmer Missy Franklin, who won five medals and who we expect to be the face of the Rio Games four years from now.

This one was also for those outside the States as well. Women from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Brunei, six total, became the first to compete at the Olympics under their nation’s flag, taking part in track, judo, table tennis, and swimming. None will go home with medals, but the Olympic Creed reads that, “the most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle,” and it’s rarely been more true.

It’s been forty years since Title IX began the journey toward ending discrimination in sports for women. We’re definitely not there yet, but the Olympics is an event that celebrates equality in athletics and culture. This was the Games that moved that needle forward in a dramatic way for women. And this Games was just the start.

Follow Olympic Talk for all the latest from the London Games.

Mikaela Shiffrin wrestles with doubt in seconds before World Cup downhill debut

Mikaela Shiffrin, of the United States, skis during the third training run for the World Cup women's downhill ski race in Lake Louise, Alberta, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)
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After a momentary panic in the start house, Mikaela Shiffrin raced to a tie for 18th in the first downhill of her World Cup career in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.

Shiffrin, the youngest Olympic slalom champion who has also won a World Cup giant slalom, has been slowly adding the speed events of super-G and downhill to her repertoire the last two seasons.

“It wasn’t bad,” Shiffrin said, according to SkiRacing.com. “I certainly didn’t risk anything crazy.”

Her result Friday, 1.99 seconds behind Slovenian winner Ilka Stuhec, came after Shiffrin was 18th, 24th and 30th fastest in downhill training runs the previous three days. Shiffrin also had to wait several minutes in the start house as the racer before her crashed (video here).

“That was just a bummer,” Shiffrin said, according to the Denver Post. “I was like, ‘Just don’t let it affect you,’ but being up there for 10 minutes, like, ‘What happened? What’s taking them so long? What’s going on? Is she hurt?’

“Then I started doubting myself, like my technique going off the jumps, which is actually pretty good. I was going back and forth between, ‘Should I even be doing this? Maybe I just should pull out because I don’t want to kill myself.’ Then I’m like, ‘You’re absolutely fine, you haven’t felt sketched out a single time on this track in the past three days, so stick with that. You don’t have to go crazy.'”

“To be fast in speed there certainly needs to be a certain level of risk, and I know that, but now, if [giant slalom] and slalom are my main priority this season, I don’t need to be going crazy in a downhill with flat light and after I got iced [waiting so long],” Shiffrin said, according to SkiRacing.com.

Stuhec won Friday’s race by .22 of a second over Italian Sofia Goggia. Swede Kajsa Kling was third.

A race replay can be seen here. Full results are here.

Lindsey Vonn, owner of a record 18 wins at Lake Louise, is missing the annual World Cup stop in Alberta due to a broken arm from a November crash. Vonn had raced at Lake Louise each of the previous 15 seasons.

Last season, Shiffrin made her World Cup debut in the super-G at Lake Louise and finished 15th.

The women have another downhill Saturday and a super-G on Sunday in Lake Louise, both streaming live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app (schedule here).

MORE: Vonn eyes January return from her most painful injury

High-speed crash at World Cup downhill in Lake Louise (video)

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Swiss Joana Haehlen crashed into netting at high speed during a World Cup downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.

Haehlen, 24, lost her right ski after landing from a jump and sped uncontrollably off course. She braced for impact, slammed into red netting and was turned around before landing with neither of her skis still attached.

She lay on the snow while being attended to and eventually skied down the mountain on her own.

It caused a 10-minute delay before the next skier, American Mikaela Shiffrin, could take her run.

VIDEO: Vonn details the most painful injury of her career