U.S. Olympic teams now carried by women in medal count in lasting Title IX impact

Title IX Olympics

In the 50 years since Title IX passed, women went from having a fraction of the Olympic medal events of men to carrying Team USA, despite still having fewer medal opportunities.

The value of the U.S. women, and by extension the impact of Title IX, was clear on the last day of the Tokyo Games.

The U.S. began Aug. 8 trailing China by two gold medals in the standings. Finishing second would have been a significant defeat, given the U.S. topped the total- and gold-medal standings at every Summer Games since 1996, except when China took more golds when it hosted in 2008 in Beijing.

But the Americans had a closer: their women.

In a span of minutes on the final day, the U.S. women’s basketball team earned its seventh consecutive gold medal, as expected, and track cyclist Jennifer Valente won the omnium, which was unexpected. Then the women’s volleyball team capped it off with the program’s first gold medal.

MORE: NBC Sports celebrates 50th anniversary of Title IX

The final standings: U.S., 39 golds. China, 38 golds. (Two U.S. male boxers also had chances for gold on the last day and came away with silver medals.)

The U.S. finished the Olympics with 66 medals in women’s events, the most ever for any nation.

It won 41 medals in men’s events, the U.S. men’s fewest since the first modern Olympics in 1896, according to Olympedia.org. That stat is all the more startling given there were a record 339 medal events in Tokyo versus 43 medal events in 1896, when only men were allowed to compete.

When Title IX passed in 1972, there were no Olympic basketball or cycling events for women. There was no NCAA women’s volleyball. Title IX provided women equal opportunities in high school and college sports. It lay the foundation for Olympic success.

“The strength of Team USA in Tokyo was on the backs of of our female athletes, many of whom competed in college,” U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland said. “It is a profound thing to see the dominance of U.S. women, particularly relative to other countries around the world who may not have either the collegiate system and the education-based athletics system that we have in this country, but certainly not one that’s catering to women, the way we have through Title IX.”

Dating back farther, some of the first scholarship recipients in the Title IX era starred at the Games.

MORE: ‘In Their Court’ podcast examines evolution of Title IX through women’s basketball

UCLA’s first four-year female scholarship athlete, Ann Meyers Drysdale, was a catalyst guard for first U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team, which took silver in 1976.

Flo Hyman, a 1984 Olympic silver medalist and arguably the greatest U.S. female volleyball player ever, was the University of Houston’s first female scholarship athlete.

The 1996 Atlanta Games are largely seen as the catapult for women’s sports with many of the stars having grown up entirely in the Title IX era.

It marked the first Olympics for women’s soccer and softball (both U.S. gold medals), the first U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team title and the final Olympics for Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Janet Evans.

“There would be no Lisa Leslie without Title IX,” Lisa Leslie, a basketball standout who was born in 1972, said in the 2021 Peacock film, “The ’96 Effect.” “There would be no USA women’s team without Title IX.”

Female stars of those Games, including the Magnificent Seven gymnasts, soccer players like Mia Hamm and basketball players like Leslie became role models for the generation that has come to dominate today.

“Part of the story of the ’96 American women at the Olympics isn’t just their specific achievements, as glorious as many of them were, it’s the ripple effect that it had,” longtime NBC Olympics primetime host Bob Costas said in “The ’96 Effect.” “Broad societal changes were obviously already under way. You need sometimes big, prominent symbols to drive the point home and also to inspire people.”

If you can see it, you can be it, as Billie Jean King says.

Starting with the 1992 Barcelona Games, U.S. women won a greater percentage of available medals than the U.S. men in every Summer Olympics except 2004. Women outnumbered men on a U.S. Olympic team for the first time in 2012 and did so by greater margins in 2016 and 2021.

The last time the U.S. won more medals in men’s events than women’s events at a Summer or Winter Olympics was 2010.

“You can see the impact not just in my generation but even in the younger generation because they have the chance to play,” five-time Olympic basketball champion Sue Bird said. “We have the opportunity to play.”

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Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz set French Open semifinal showdown


Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz will play in the French Open semifinals on Friday in the most anticipated match of the tournament.

Each man advanced with a quarterfinal win on Tuesday.

Djokovic, eyeing a record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam men’s singles title, rallied past 11th-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov 4-6, 7-6 (0), 6-2, 6-4. The Serb reached his 45th career major semifinal, one shy of Roger Federer‘s men’s record.

Later Tuesday, top seed Alcaraz crushed fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (5) to consolidate his status as the favorite in Friday’s showdown.

“This match, everyone wants to watch,” Alcaraz said. “I really wanted to play this match as well. I always say that if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Alcaraz, who at last year’s U.S. Open became the first male teen to win a major since Rafael Nadal in 2005, is at this event the youngest man to be the top seed at a major since Boris Becker at 1987 Wimbledon.

The Djokovic-Alcaraz semifinal will produce the clear favorite for Sunday’s final given left-handed 14-time French Open champion Nadal is out this year with a hip injury and No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev lost in the first round. Djokovic and Nadal share the record 22 men’s major titles.

Djokovic and Alcaraz met once, with Alcaraz winning last year on clay in Madrid 6-7 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5).

“[Alcaraz] brings a lot of intensity on the court,” Djokovic said, before breaking into a smile. “Reminds me of someone from his country that plays with a left hand.”

Alcaraz and Djokovic were set to be on opposite halves of the draw — and thus not able to meet until the final — until Medvedev won the last top-level clay event before the French Open to move ahead of Djokovic in the rankings. That meant Djokovic had a 50 percent chance to wind up in Alcaraz’s half, and that’s what the random draw spit out two weeks ago.

Earlier Tuesday in the first two women’s quarterfinals, No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and 43rd-ranked Czech Karolina Muchova advanced to face off in Thursday’s semifinals.

Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion, swept Ukrainian Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-4 to complete her set of semifinals in all four Grand Slams. Sabalenka will take the No. 1 ranking from Iga Swiatek if Swiatek loses before the final, or if Sabalenka makes the final and Swiatek does not win the title.

Svitolina, a former world No. 3, returned to competition in April from childbirth.

Muchova took out 2021 French Open runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 7-5, 6-2, to make her second major semifinal after the 2021 Australian Open.

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2023 French Open men’s singles draw

Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They meet in Friday’s semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).

All of the American men lost before the fourth round. The last U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals was Andre Agassi in 2003.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw