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.

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Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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