TOKYO – Time and time again at the Tokyo Olympics, American athletes climbed the medal podium to claim gold, silver, or bronze medals. In a historical precedent, nearly 60% of these US medalists were women.
If American women were their country, they would be in fourth place in the number of Olympic medals, ahead of Great Britain, Germany, Italy, France and nearly 200 other countries, and behind the entire US team, China and the Russian Olympic Committee.
Of Team USA’s 98 medals prior the final week of games, 58 were won by women, nearly double the 35 medals won by men. (Five medals were won in mixed events involving male and female athletes.)
This means that 59.2% of all US medals have been won by women. If this number continues through the recent events of these Olympics, it will easily outperform the previous best result of the American women, who had won 55.8% of the medals at the 2012 London Olympics.
“What a marvelous testament to the firm work of these amazing athletes and to the powerful women who paved the way for them,” Sarah Hirschland, chief executive of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, told USA TODAY Sports Friday. “We are very elated.”
One of those women who paved the way, and perhaps the most famous female sports pioneer of all time, is tennis legend Billie Jean King.
“If girls and women were given the alike investment, opportunity, and access, their potential, like all people, would be unlimited,” King wrote in a text message.
Not only will this be the fourth successive Summer Olympics in which American women triumph more medals than American men, but it will also be the third successive Summer Games in which women outnumber men on the American team.
There is absolutely no secret why this happens. Because of Title IX, the U.S. law signed by President Richard Nixon in June 1972 that mandated equal treatment of girls and women in sports, and opened the door wide to the participation of millions of female athletes over the former half century.
“As Team USA celebrates its Olympic performance, one must recognize how for nearly 50 years, in an effort to elevate women in our society, Title IX has given generations of women to compete, lead, triumph and inspire,” Olympic gold medalist Donna de Varona said, USOPC board member and longtime support for women’s sports, in a text message.
“In the sports arena, we have witnessed how the opportunities assigned and protected have had a profound impact on our culture. Thank you, Title IX.”
After winning the gold in women’s beach volleyball on Friday afternoon, American April Ross said simply, “Without a ninth title, I don’t think I’d be here.
“I firmly believe I wouldn’t be where I am without my college sports experience at USC,” she said. “You taught me so much and I am so grateful to all the women and men who came prior me and who fought for my right to compete in college and pay for my education.”
To this end, it is conceivable to chart the increasing importance of Article IX in the changing confront of US Olympic teams.
At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Team USA consisted of 375 men and 271 women, with men winning 58.4 percent of the medals versus 38.6 percent for women, with three medals in mixed events.
Ironically, those games became known as the “Women’s Olympic Games” due to the introduction of softball and women’s soccer as well as the women’s impressive performances in gymnastics, swimming, and basketball, among other sports.
By 2008 in Beijing, women still outnumbered men on the American team, 282 to 306, but this was the first time that American women had won more medals than American men, 56-55.
Four years later in London, for the first time ever, the US team had more women than men, 268–262, and the women won 58 medals versus the men’s 45.
Five years ago in Rio, there were 291 women versus 263 men on Team USA, and women won 50.4 percent of the medals versus the men’s 46.3 percent, with four medals in mixed events.
This trend is not expected to end any time soon. Olympic gold medalist and ninth title lawyer Nancy Hoogscheid-Maccar, who has been campaigning for colleges to eliminate persistent inequality in her support of women’s sports, said:
“These shocking performances by Team America for Women in Tokyo are the tip of the iceberg for women’s potential.”