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.
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