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.

Kayla Harrison begins MMA career

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12:  (BROADCAST - OUT) Judoka Kayla Harrison of the United States poses for a photo with her gold medal on the Today show set on Copacabana Beach on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Two-time Olympic judo champion Kayla Harrison has joined mixed martial arts promotion World Series of Fighting as a commentator, brand ambassador and potentially a fighter, but she isn’t 100 percent committed to competing and won’t set a first bout for at least one year.

“All signs point to a yes, but everything has to work out,” Harrison said. “I haven’t booked a fight.”

Harrison, 26 and all but retired from judo, has been asked time and again for years about her interest in pursuing MMA. That’s in part because of former training partner Ronda Rousey‘s overwhelming success after she switched from Olympic judo.

Harrison will serve as a commentator and brand ambassador before potentially getting into MMA competition. Her commentating debut will be at WSOF 34 in New York on Dec. 31 on NBC.

Harrison has taken boxing and jiu-jitsu lessons as far back as 2013, which should boost her MMA potential.

To compete in MMA, Harrison will require a weight cut from her Olympic judo class of 172 pounds.

Rousey competes at 135 pounds, the heaviest women’s weight class in UFC. WSOF, which has no women’s weight classes, plans to develop a women’s program as Harrison readies for a potential debut.

Harrison expects that if she fights, it will be at 145 pounds.

Harrison laughed about people tweeting at her to fight Brazilian Cristiane Justino, a former 145-pound title holder who is set to face Rousey, should Rousey win her comeback fight.

“I’ve never fought MMA before, so my first fight is not going to be for a belt,” Harrison cautioned. “I’m going to MMA 0-0, not as a two-time Olympic champion. People need to remember that.”

Harrison said she last conversed with Rousey one or two months ago. Rousey, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, congratulated Harrison on her second gold medal and told Harrison she was available if she needed anything.

Harrison said she might reach out to her former training partner early next year, after Rousey’s comeback fight, to pick her brain about MMA.

“And be like, hey, what do you got for me? Tell me everything,” Harrison joked.

MORE: Ronda Rousey sets comeback fight

U.S. men’s gymnastics program undergoes changes

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 25: Members of the U.S. Men's National Gymnastics Team gather before day two of the 2016 Men's Gymnastics Olympic Trials at Chafitz Arena on June 25, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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U.S. men’s national team coordinator Kevin Mazeika‘s contract will not be renewed at the end of the year as USA Gymnastics makes changes after missing the men’s team podium at a second straight Olympics.

Mazeika was the U.S. men’s head coach at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, where the U.S. men earned team medals at a non-home Games for the first time. He then served as national team coordinator from 2009 through this year.

The U.S. men finished fifth at the last two Olympics.

USA Gymnastics will replace the national team coordinator role with a high-performance director “focused on sustained international success.”

“The coaches, committee members and staff did a thorough review of the existing structure and results, and then took a hard look at what is needed to prepare our athletes for success heading toward Tokyo and beyond,” USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said in a press release.

MORE: U.S. women’s national team coordinator named