SBD/August 8, 2012/Olympics

Female U.S. Olympians Are Leaving Their Mark On London Games

The U.S. female swimmers won 14 medals overall and eight Gold Medals
U.S. women's soccer F Alex Morgan's 123rd-minute goal against Canada in the semifinals Monday "served as an exclamation point to 10 days of unprecedented dominance by American female athletes and an affirmation on the 40th anniversary of Title IX that women have made great strides in sports," according to Michelle Kaufman of the MIAMI HERALD. As of yesterday evening, the U.S. women "had outperformed the U.S. men, winning 20 gold medals to the men's 10, and 36 overall to 29." Sports Management Resources President Donna Lopiano said, "There is no doubt in anybody's mind this is a direct function of our having the strongest sports law in the world as far as gender equity." The American female swimmers "had their most successful meet since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics," winning 14 medals overall and eight Gold Medals, a "huge improvement" over the two Gold Medals won in the '08 Beijing Games and three Golds at the '04 Athens Games. Also, the U.S. gymnastics squad "proved to be the most successful U.S. team in history." U.S. women's basketball F Candace Parker said that the women "feed off success of American teammates in other sports." Parker: "I've always been a fan. We do kind of feed off each other. It's kind of like a standard we've all set. We watched USA succeed, and once we get our opportunity, we want to continue that tradition" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/8). The AP's Paul Haven wrote some observers "scoffed at early hype that the games would be a breakout moment for women, but 11 days in, female athletes have dominated the headlines." Save for "a few bursts from Michael Phelps and the indomitable Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, it's hard to imagine the London Games without them." Haven: "Certainly, the 2012 Games would have lacked a majority of their defining moments." IOC Television & Marketing Services Dir Timo Lumme said that the "dominance of female athletes has sparked a surge in viewership of the games among American girls." He said that ratings are "89 percent higher among 12-to-17-year-old girls than for the hit teen drama 'Glee,' the highest-rated network show in that demographic" (AP, 8/7).

EVERY COUNTRY REPRESENTED: In Baltimore, Jean Marbella in a front-page piece writes women are "making their mark on these Olympics in other ways: This is the first time that every country has at least one woman competing." This also is the "first time the U.S. team has more women than men on it, 268 to 261, as does Canada's and Russia's." Many of the "stars who have emerged from these Games so far are women" (Baltimore SUN, 8/8). SI’s Alexander Wolff writes most people in London are choosing to "celebrate how far women have come, rather than rue how far they still have to go.” Former U.S. Gold Medal-swimmer Donna de Varona said, “These are ministeps. But even if you think they’re token gestures, they represent beacons of hope. That every country has sent women, I think, we’ll look back at as a watershed” (SI, 8/13 issue).

FEMALE FACES EMERGING: In Newark, Andrew Mills writes few countries "give its female athletes the same opportunities as the U.S., so maybe it's fitting, then, that many of the best American stories in London have been authored by women," including the "dominance of the U.S. women's swim team" and the team and individual victories for U.S. gymnastics. The women's soccer team is "one victory away from another Olympic championship," and Morgan is the "rising star on this team, the future of her sport." Mills: "This is the part that speaks to the success of women's soccer in the U.S. and the power of Title IX: She never played a single game with most of the stars from that golden generation, who retired before she joined the team" (Newark STAR LEDGER, 8/8). In DC, Barry Svrluga writes under the header "Alex Morgan Emerging As New Face Of U.S. Women's Soccer" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/8).

IS THIS REALLY GIRL POWER? FOXSPORTS.com's Jen Floyd Engel wrote, "Anybody who believes this is girl power needs to take a closer look at what it means to be truly powerful." Women at the Olympics are "winning medals and losing battles, participating in record numbers and being judged by different standards, given trails to blaze and then called whores for doing so." U.S. hurdler Lolo Jones was "ripped for being too sexy, gold medalist swimmer Allison Schmitt for not being sexy enough." Floyd Engel: "Attacks on Gabby Douglas' hairstyle overshadowed her gymnastics dominance, just as criticism of Serena Williams' celebratory dance at Wimbledon did hers. This is not girl power. This is bordering on a backlash." Women are "playing and winning." The danger is that we "confuse this with power, girl or otherwise." Floyd Engel: "Real power is not being allowed to compete. It is being allowed to compete without conditions" (FOXSPORTS.com, 8/7).
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